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Free Software Foundation Receives $1M Donation from Pineapple Fund (fsf.org)
255 points by madmax108 on Jan 31, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 99 comments



> "Free software is more than open source; it is a movement that encourages community collaboration and protects users' freedom,"

Glad to see people who clearly understand that "Open Source" does not encompass everything.


It refers to almost the same software. The difference is more on emphasis and what you care about than the set of software it refers to. It's about the underlying philosophy.

I say this because it's important to remember that open source is also intended to refer to a strict definition that also addresses user freedoms. The open source definition for example forbids discriminating against fields of endeavour and says the software should be usable for any purpose. "Open source" doesn't just mean visible source.

OpenBSD calls itself free software despite being opposed to copyleft, for example. Open source and free software are more allies than enemies, and I think it's important to remember that both want user freedom. They just express it in different ways and to a different degree.


> and I think it's important to remember that both want user freedom

As a free software activist, I haven't found that to be true. Remember that the term "open source" was created explicitly to sell the development methodology to businesses without talking about the ethical issues.

When developers write software under the umbrella of "open source", many aren't even aware of software freedom issues---they may be doing it because their peers are doing it; because they were told they should do it for a portfolio to get a job; or maybe because they like sharing their software with others. Some businesses liberate their code merely for contributions or press.

That's certainly not the case for all open source developers---there is, as you said, an overlap. But it's important to use the term "free software" and talk about software freedom to start those discussions and get people thinking about software freedom.


As a free software activist, do you think our effectual software freedoms would have advanced as far as they have without OSI's emphasize on the practical aspects of libre software? Do you think Eric Raymond and Bruce Perens could have made similar inroads with businesses if they had stuck to the (ambiguous, IMO) "free software" moniker?


I can't speculate what the norm might be today if businesses were talking about free software instead of "open source". It might have provided benefit to the movement, or it might have diluted the term. Ironically, in making the distinction between open source and free software, we have the opportunity to clarify its meaning and make a clear distinction between methodology and ethics/ideology.

Open source---regardless of whether history would have been different if the term had never originated---has contributed significantly to the dissemination of free software and the amount of software released under free licenses. But it's completely disproportionate to the amount it has advanced the principles of software freedom.

Is it good that more people are using free software? Is it good that there is so much of it available? Absolutely---I'm able to run a fully free system, down to the BIOS. But I'm among a small group that does so on principle, and will not abandon freedom for proprietary software that is more feature-rich, performant, etc.


As I've said many times before:

"Free Software" and "Open Source Software" refer to almost the same sets of software; but the "Free Software" movement/ideology and the "Open Source" movement/ideology are very different. And if we're talking about giving money to a foundation that does advocacy, it's the latter that matters more.

Because FS and OSS do refer to almost the same set of software, they are allies (more OSS means more FS and more FS means more OSS), but that doesn't make them friends. You are correct that OS does refer to more than just visible source. However, the OS movement/ideology does not care about user freedom as an objective, the OS ideology is based around the belief that user freedom leads to better, higher-quality software, for less dev cost; which is good business. Within the OS ideology and movement there is room to believe that there are situations where that isn't true, and that it can be the right decision to restrict user freedom. In the OS ideology, user freedom is the strategy, not the objective. In the FS ideology, user freedom is the objective; it is never the right decision to restrict user freedom.

OpenBSD is a different topic: it is free software, and considers user freedom to be an objective. However, they disagree with GNU/FSF about whether copyleft/the GPL is a good strategy for user freedom.


Open source focuses on the technical. Free software focuses on the political

Stallman has said many times he wasn't trying to move the state of technology forward with GNU projects - just trying to have a libre computing base because it was the best political option.


> Political

I'd say a better word is philosophical. Even in the absence of any kind of politics the concept of maximizing user freedom can make sense in itself.


> "Open source" doesn't just mean visible source.

That's not how Microsoft uses the word "Open Source" so the expression is completely void of meaning nowadays.


With the apparent volatility that Bitcoin has, how will they decide when to cash that out? Any amount is obviously good for the FSF but maximizing the donation may be a bit tricky with the current markets.


I would expect them to do so imminently to normalize it into the budget. If someone gave them $1M worth of gold I would not expect them to sit on it (what possible use would FSF have with gold as a material?), but rather convert it into resources which then can be used to fund projects.


I wonder how easy it would be to liquidate these bitcoins? I would imagine that Joe Blow tries to liquidate the same amount, alarm bells would ring very loudly.


It is not easy, especially if you don't already have an account at a Bitcoin exchange. See my other comment at https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16277833 for more details (tl;dr: we've been looking/signing up for exchanges for over 3 weeks and none have responded to our signup request yet).


To clarify, by "we" I don't mean FSF. I work for a different 501(c)(3) non-profit.


This is incredible, money being put to good use. Just a taste of what's to come in the future as more and more money is transferred to the people.


>as more and more money is transferred to the people

Where do you think this money came from in the first place? You think the value of bitcoin was driven up by the 1%? Or magically created by gnomes like fractional reserve lending?


If we want to be philosophical then answer is very simple. The money comes from people who want to buy bitcoins.

Then we can ask why people want to buy bitcoins and the answer get a bit more complex but usefully branches into two areas. People want to either speculate (gamble) that the coins will increase in value because they think others also think that the value will increase and thus it will, or they want to buy the bitcoins because it enables them to buy objects for which bitcoins serves as value tokens.

Which in turn leads us to ask about the nature of value tokens. Why do we use them, the history, intrinsic values, and so on.


If we want to be non-philosophical then most the value of bitcoin has come from unsophisticated retail investors that haven't spent half as much time thinking about the 'store of value' as you have in this post and just want to make amazing profits like they've seen others make in a short time period.


As far as I know the value of Bitcoin doesn't match the funds invested. So while the money comes from people wanting to buy Bitcoin, the value comes from "the market". But of course then you also have to consider where these Bitcoin comes from. The previous is only strictly true if the person making the donation is a miner or investor. It could also come from selling drugs, hacking or exit scamming.


The money will come from whoever takes the other side of the trade. It's worth a million if there are buyers willing to pay for that much Bitcoin.

For what it's worth, I glanced at a chart and GDAX alone seems to have done 300 million in trades over the last 24 hours.

Seems like a lot? I'm wondering who is still buying Bitcoin on the way down. Or is it all day-trading?


Speculation and access to market services aren't the only two reasons. They could also buy them to diversify a portfolio of assets.


The only diversification value comes from exactly the two reasons you've dismissed.


The value is drive up by money laundering / bypassing restrictions around foreign currency exchange (eg bypassing Chinese regulations)


I believe "to the people" is another way of saying not directly to large software corporations. To the people from the people.


It was driven up by 80-year-olds draining their 401-K accounts to speculate in something exciting and new that their grandson mentioned.



Please cash that out before this whole Tether mess unwinds.


I'm not expert (really, shocking I know), is there a scenario where the market starts going and the well known coins become the store of value?

If the throttle is on converting back to fiat currency, then BTC/ETH/(LTC?) will be in demand and have the longest hold periods since they are currently the gateway out.


Sort of. If this goes the same way it did with mtgox in 2013, we should expect to see bitcoin prices shoot up in the tether exchanges and go down in the USD exchanges.


In a collapse scenario there will be more speculative buying of some of them, but it certainly won't be at high prices.

(this is vaguely tautological statement, if the prices stay high then it isn't a collapse, etc.)


$1m or 91.45 BTC? EFF and HN should both know better and use the actual BTC value, that isn't vulnerable to 30% / day value changes.


Well they're not going to be buying anything in bitcoin, might as well talk about the real world value. Better yet, cash out as soon as they can...


I think you mean FSF here. (The Pineapple Fund has also donated to EFF.)


If they use the BTC value they should also include the time it was sent


Huge congrats FSF!


do the funds sent to these recipients remain btc and are leveraged against as an asset or are they converted to fiat?


I'd just like to interject for a moment. What you're refering to as $1M, is in fact, $903818.64.


It’s not a million dollars, it’s bitcoin. Good luck cashing that out. Please denote it as such...


What are you even talking about? Bitcoin is super liquid with high trading volumes. You can literally convert 100 Bitcoin to $1,000,000 USD in seconds, 24/7, anywhere in the world, without moving the market very much.


I work for a non-profit that has been trying since the beginning of January to get an account at an exchange that will convert a Bitcoin donation we received to USD. So far we have not had any luck, since many (most?) exchanges are not accepting new customers (or explicitly state that reviewing new account applications is their lowest priority) and those that do still accept new customers have multi-week wait times for opening accounts (at one exchange we've been waiting over 3 weeks ago with no reply yet).

As a result, we cannot "literally convert 100 Bitcoin to $1,000,000 USD in seconds", or even 0.001 Bitcoin. In fact, we can't even do so in 3 weeks (and counting).

Could you point us to an exchange that is accepting new signups and will verify an account for a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization within a day (or even a week)?


https://cumberlandmining.com

Note: they have a $100k min


Thanks very much! That would work fine for us. I'll have to check with others at our org to ensure we can provide all the information, but at least they're upfront about what is likely to be required.


Or you can request a block OTC trade with any of the major exchanges and they'll bite your arm off for your business. Zero slippage.


Per my above comment, do you know of such an exchange that is accepting new account registrations? We would be happy to open an account there if they can indeed complete a mid-sized trade (including any required account verification) for a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization within a week.


There is 0 luck required to cash out such an insignificant amount.


It's a shame that companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon and others who have benefited so much from the work of organizations like the FSF don't pony up. These companies are notably absent from the current list of patrons[1].

[1]: https://www.fsf.org/patrons


Google used to fund the FSF[0], not sure why they stopped.

[0]: https://opensource.googleblog.com/2008/03/updates-from-free-...



There's something very contrary about expecting payment/compensation for FSF software. "Its free! Except if its useful; then it should cost you money!" That's a strange guilt-trip.

I understand the impulse though. We all believe our hard work at creating something of value should be compensated. But it flies in the face of the 'free software' ideology. Which is why I don't endorse open projects at all.

Or don't I understand the FSF at all? That's possible.


I get stuff all the time that is presented as free while still having the understanding that there are costs. The streets, parks, education, they are all free if I don't consider that the Swedish government takes about 1/3 of my income.

If a friend helps you there is usually a unspoken contract that you will help them in return. They are not a 1:1 trade but any social relationship is a give and take. Very few things in life has one party that only take and an other that only gives.


Realistically, if the government didn't tax and the benefits were available without payment, how many people would voluntarily pay? Many (most?) will accept a free ride when it is available.

The strength of that "unspoken contract" diminishes as you move from personal friend to distant organization.

I agree that this software has value and it would be nice for people to support it monetarily, but it seems unreasonable to get upset when people don't.


Free Software means free as in speech not free as in beer.


But their software is also free as in beer? It seems strange to make something available without payment and then get mad when people don't pay.

I understand the other non-monetary freedoms that the FSF advocates, this is not about those.


In the past, the GNU operating system tapes cost hefty money, for what is worth.

Also, I don't see anyone getting mad at people not paying. I only see one HN poster saying it's a shame that organization depending on GNU on their infrastructure don't support the work of the FSF, especially after what emerged in the wake of heartbleed (I know OpenSSL was not a GNU project, but the problem is similar).


"Pony up" must mean something different for me than it does for you. I don't know what it means to OP, in my comment I mistakenly assumed my understanding of the phrase was fairly universal.


Ok, but then

> It seems strange to make something available without payment and then get mad when people don't pay.

Seems to imply that "get mad" here refers to the fsf getting mad, which was the reason for my comment.


I hear that all the time. It means absolutely nothing to me. Beer is not free; speech is 'free of certain restrictions'. What part is that phrase getting at?


It's referring to the distinction between two meanings of the word in English. Free as in no cost, and free as in freedom. If someone said "have some free beer" you would assume the first use of the term rather than the second (although you might be suspicious that an offer of "free beer" had a catch). It's just a slightly witty way of explaining the difference between the two terms with brevity.

With free software, the freedom to copy software generally does mean the software is available at no cost, but that's not the goal behind the philosophy, nor is there any restriction on selling it or encouraging donations.


Spanish has two words for free: libre and gratis. Libre means freedom and gratis means at no cost. English is confusing because we use the same word for both meanings.

Also, Beer is free at my house. Come over anytime!


If you brew beer from scratch at home and share your recipe then your beer can be both libre and gratis!


You may want to check the actual definition of Free Software.

https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.en.html


> You may want to check the actual definition of Free Software.

That's the definition according to gnu and shouldn't be parroted as the definition. Generally, when people say "free", even with software, they mean price.


We are talking about free software in the context of a donation to the fsf, and the poster above asked what is meant by "free" in this context, so for all intents and purposes that is the correct definition to link to.

But I'm curious: can you find a definition or usage of "free software" that predates the gnu manifesto? Because that would be something useful in the discussion about changing the name (which it's something that is being debated).


> We are talking about free software in the context of a donation to the fsf, and the poster above asked what is meant by "free" in this context

The parent to your post did not ask that question. In fact that post displayed the exact point that I mentioned to you, that many people don't use free the same as the definition you quoted.

What you quoted is a definition from gnu.org not fsf.org. They, in fact, use two different definitions, which was another point that I made - to not quote gnu.org as the definition, especially in a conversation about donating to the fsf.


> There's something very contrary about expecting payment/compensation for FSF software.

No, there's really not, because free software is about freedom, not price. C.f. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gratis_versus_libre

> Or don't I understand the FSF at all?

I think that's the case. Read https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.en.html for more about the Four Freedoms: to run, to study, to distribute copies & to distribute modifications.

The FSF (for all its faults) has done a lot of good in the world, and companies like Google & Amazon owe it a huge moral debt. They are under no legal compulsion to pay it a single cent, but it's fair to say that without the Free Software Foundation there would be no modern web.


> without the Free Software Foundation there would be no modern web

Look, I'm literally a card-carrying FSF supporter, but I would think that if the FSF didn't develop GNU the UNIX war would probably have ended anyway, BSD would be free of AT&T code and we would all be using a BSD variant.


In addition to the other comments: The FSF is not only a vendor so software, but also a Lobby organization engaged in debates around privacy and control over computer systems (incl. DRM and such topics).


Yeah, but if you're an entity with infinite money, and derive great benefits from using it, it seems reasonable to toss them a few dollars. Not even just to be nice, but to ensure it continues to grow so you can keep milking it later.


I think you are mixing up freedom with expectation that work should be done for free.


You may be confused about the use of the term "free" in this context. It isn't about giving stuff away for $0 in compensation, it's about freedom in the sense of liberty and freedom to modify software you own.

RMS is possibly considering renaming it, too: https://www.reddit.com/r/linux/comments/7t97sn/fsf_foundatio...


You don't understand it at all.


This comment doesn't help much, does it? Especially when there are a lot of comments already trying to explain the confusion in a more constructive way.


On the link you posted please click for 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. You will see Google there


I checked my calendar and it would appear the current year is 2018.


But 2018 isn't listed by the FSF on that page... the absence of information in this case can't be taken as information.


This is money that could have been better spent to fund something more useful. I stopped supporting the Free Software Foundation once they starting making compromises in their mission and failed to give proper funding to critical infrastructure components that are part of the GNU Project. While they did say :

> Increase innovation and the number of new projects in high priority areas of free software development, including the GNU Project;

I'll believe it when I see it. We have become too dependent on core components that are not being properly maintained, lack funding or both. This won't solve the funding issue if these funds are squandered on a bunch of new projects and management.

I won't give another dime to the FSF until management changes, campaigns actually does something engaging with the community and more funding is put towards critical GNU components (instead of new bloated projects). I still support the idea of Libre / Free Software, just not the religion and church that popped up around it. I'd like to see an organization that advocates for Free Software and is consistent in their mission (Hint : OSI and the Linux Foundation are not a fit).


You criticize the FSF's software management, but software maintenance is the least important thing the foundation does in my opinion. (I mean I don't need a new `grep` release every month, I could actually use a version from 2004)

They take care of longer term issues, such as enforcing the GPL, defending it in lawsuits, writing good free software licences, raising awareness about issues (DRM, vendor lock-in, etc.), increasing free software use around the world.


> ...software maintenance is the least important thing the foundation does in my opinion. (I mean I don't need a new `grep` release every month, I could actually use a version from 2004)

So, critical components that have issues : GPG, GNU TLS, GCC, Make, glibc, etc... are not important? If the tools that everything else is built upon are not being maintained, then a lot of infrastructure fails in spectacular ways. If these things are not important, I guess that I've been using the wrong tools and OS.

> They take care of longer term issues, such as enforcing the GPL, defending it in lawsuits, writing good free software licences, raising awareness about issues (DRM, vendor lock-in, etc.), increasing free software use around the world.

They have failed at these things for a long time. The FSF has not had any engaging campaigns in quite a long time (more than 5 years); writing a blog post and an angry letter does not usually get the job done (see HTML5 EME campaign). GPL enforcement from the FSF is a joke since they take forever to respond to anything and by the time they get to it, the device / software is no longer sold / shipped. I also don't see any new striking licenses on the horizon being drafted by the FSF.


Make: Ok. I don't personally need many changes in Make. In fact I think it is the kind of tool that should not change too much. GCC: The last release was like 6 days ago: https://www.gnu.org/software/gcc/

I would not call that "not being maintained".

Similar thing for GNU tls.

I don't consider that these tools are not important, I'm just saying that the importance is small when compared to what the FSF does. Plenty of other organizations/businesses support and develop free software, few support the legal/licence/philosophy side.


> I'll believe it when I see it. We have become too dependent on core components that are not being properly maintained, lack funding or both. [...] more funding is put towards critical GNU components (instead of new bloated projects).

The GNU Project is a separate entity from the FSF. The FSF provides infrastructure and does provide fundraising / direct funds for certain projects, but otherwise, GNU projects are maintained by individuals with no connection to the FSF. To offer you program to GNU, you send it to GNU volunteers for evaluation (I am one of two active evaluators), after which it is sent directly to rms for final determination. The FSF is involved only if we need to get the sysadmins involved for something.

If you support a GNU package, donate directly to that project (or via the FSF's fundraising page, if applicable).

> I still support the idea of Libre / Free Software, just not the religion and church that popped up around it.

You criticize the FSF for "making compromises", and then criticize them for sticking hard to their principles.

I disagree that they are compromising on their principles.


> once they starting making compromises in their mission

Honest question: what are you talking about? I seem to have missed that happening.


There are a lot of examples, but the most notable is the endorsement / promotion of the X60 / X200 with non-free EC firmware and a dial-up modem that requires non-free software to work.

While not a freedom issue, they endorsed PureOS even though it uses a Debian kernel (linux-libre Vs. Debian kernel, not going to get into that here) while another distro was denied for that specific thing.


> endorsement / promotion of the X60 [...] with non-free EC firmware and a dial-up modem that requires non-free software to work

Sorry, I may need a source on this. My X60 boots perfectly without any non-free firmware, and everything works (except the wireless card I swapped in, I don't know if also the original needed them). I'm asking for a source because I would like to understand how they endorsed it. If it boots without problems and you need an external dongle to get wifi I don't see a problem with that, from a freedom standpoint.

Really, I'm not trying to be a contrarian, just trying to better understand where my money is going.

EDIT: typo



> There are a lot of examples, but the most notable is the endorsement / promotion of the X60 / X200 with non-free EC firmware

See https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-hardware-designs.en.html


> What is the boundary, in digital devices, between hardware and software? It follows from the definitions. Software is the operational part of a device that can be copied and changed in a computer; hardware is the operational part that can't be. This is the right way to make the distinction because it relates to the practical consequences.

> There is a gray area between hardware and software that contains firmware that can be upgraded or replaced, but is not meant ever to be upgraded or replaced once the product is sold.

See http://ps-2.kev009.com/pccbbs/mobiles/7buj19us.txt ^F EC version


What's wrong with Debian kernel?


This is what I found about this particular debacle.

https://lists.nongnu.org/archive/html/gnu-linux-libre/2017-1...


Debian's kernel is deblobbed and contains only free software. If you can find an example contrary to this, it is a bug.

The poster on the thread you linked is making the argument that free software shouldn't be looking for non-free firmware, even when it isn't installed. That's... interesting and not something I've ever heard complained about.

The FSF doesn't endorse Debian because of the non-free repository which, while not officially a part of Debian, they consider a Debian. If you install only the "main" repository you will get only free software. The default install only contains the "main" repository.


It has long been the case that FSF-endorsed distros could not use the Debian kernel, even though it contains only free software.

It had always been my understanding that the intention is that the messages the Debian kernel displays looks like an error message suggesting that the module should have been present. Even if it looks less like an error, and is more matter-of-factly "such and such functionality is disabled because nonfree.bin could not be loaded"; reading between the lines, that sounds a lot like "install nonfree.bin for that functionality".

https://lists.gnu.org/archive/html/gnu-linux-libre/2017-12/m...

However, following the more recent discussion, particularly the comments of Alexandre Oliva (the Linux-libre maintainer), I'm not so sure. I hadn't realized that many of the extreme deblobbing measures (replacing firmare filenames with "/* DEBLOBBED /") in Linux-libre were because it must not load non-free blobs even on distros that are hostile to that goal. On FSF-endorsed distros that are not hostile to that goal, what measures are* necessary?

https://lists.gnu.org/archive/html/gnu-linux-libre/2018-01/m... https://lists.gnu.org/archive/html/gnu-linux-libre/2018-01/m...

(I am one of the core developers of Parabola, an FSF-endorsed distro)


I know why Debian isn't endorsed by the fsf (and I'm ambivalent about that, for what it's worth).

But the post I linked to makes an interesting point abuot why ConnochaetOS is not endorsed while the same reasoning was not applied for PureOS.


Ironically, many GNU manuals are included in the non-free sections because Debian considers the GNU FDL non-free because it allows invariant sections - sections that cannot be changed.


s/FSL/FDL/


Yes, thanks.


> I stopped supporting the Free Software Foundation once they starting making compromises in their mission

They can't win. Many people don't fully support them because they do stick to the principles of free software rather than the weaker concept of "open source". Now you criticise them of making compromises.


No one can win anything since life is a losing battle. I am still going to call out the FSF when they make critical or hypocritical compromises, in the case of pushing, making exceptions for, promoting or explaining away non-libre software in the case of components that can easily be changed. I know lots of people don't support them because, in their view, they don't make any/enough compromises (that is the OSI / Linux Foundation's job). I would like to live in a world where we have full control over the tools that we use and making compromises won't get us there.

We still continue to lose control of our tools because of the compromises we make or because some of us are tone deaf to the fact we need control over the various components in our computers (my favorite arguments : it's too complicated, not smart enough, because reasons...). The reason we are here is because not enough people care until it is too late, infrastructure fails, a new trendy security issue has been named or we find out that component X is running software that does something we don't like. The first step is education and getting enough people demanding hardware/software that makes no compromises on user control and freedom.


Well it's quite honestly bizarre that you would stop supporting the FSF. I don't think there is any other organisation in the world that is actively promoting what you value. As far as I know the FSF has never made compromises about its ultimate goals.


> This is money that could have been better spent to fund something more useful

It sounds like your argument is that their projects are very useful, but underfunded, so the FSF must be denied funding.

The logic is difficult to follow. Is it that you’d like to be able to fund individual parts of the GNU project that are important to you?


> This is money that could have been better spent to fund something more useful. I stopped supporting the Free Software Foundation once they starting making compromises in their mission...

So who do you give your support since the FSF is inadequate in your opinion?




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