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Richard Stallman: Cell phones are 'Stalin's dream' (networkworld.com)
103 points by barredo on Mar 15, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 81 comments



There are many valid criticisms of Richard Stallman: He sometimes fails to show ordinary courtesy, even to his supporters; he can be spectacularly bad at common techniques of persuasion; and he has creeped out some women by making passes at them (or so they tell me).

There are some morally neutral things which may be said about Stallman: His views are far out of the mainstream; he is uncompromising even in small matters; and he occasionally has a weird-but-powerful charisma.

There are some praiseworthy things about Stallman: He appears to be utterly principled; he shows few signs of being tempted by money; and he has persevered for decades to bring about the world he wants.

None of these things, good or bad, affect the underlying question: Is Stallman right?

In my case, I often find Stallman's claims ridiculous at first. Why? Because Stallman is asking us to take extreme measures against threats which seem both unlikely and dystopian, such as the universal DRM he predicted in his 1997 short story, "The Right to Read."

But I've noticed, over the years, that Stallman's most paranoid fears tend to come partially true. Today, we have an acronym for "DRM", and we've spent years fighting the legal powers granted by the DMCA. So I no longer automatically discount what Stallman says, because his pessimistic predictions have a better track record than my optimistic ones.


I had the opinion once that he was a crackpot who had attracted a following. Today, he seems - while still appearing a little eccentric - at least to have an ability to discern computing issues far out on the horizon. I don't think his reasonings can be discarded without a careful analysis.


He makes perfectly valid and compelling points but then shoots himself in both feet by using the word "Stalin".

Language like that just alienates people. The dude needs a filter.


Would you prefer "Mao", then? http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2328174


Unfortunately language like that is probably required to get the story in the homepage in the first place.


There is the joke that even a broken watch is correct twice a day. I do think his communication style, his use of hyperbole, and his unwillingness to bring the listener 'along' work against him in most situations. However, he does have a self consistent line of reasoning as far as I've been able to discern for all of his positions.

But lets step back from the messenger for a moment and look at the message. Richard's rant on cellphones is predicated, in part, that they can be used as surveillance devices. The engineering of a cell phone network is such that it presents, perhaps as an 'attractive nuisance'[1], the ability to extract surveillance data. This has nothing to do with whether or not the software in the phone is "free", rather it has everything to do with how that software is used.

So a question that does not come up often, and I have yet to see in print, is this, "If all software was 'free' and 'open' how would that change anything?" So if the source code to the handsets is "free" and the source code to the base stations is "free" and the PSTN software is "free", what changes? SIP based phones have the same surveillance capabilities as GSM phones and one can put together a nominally 'free' stack for such a phone network. I'm afraid I don't have any good answers here.

[1] http://definitions.uslegal.com/a/attractive-nuisance/ although in our case the 'children' here are Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs) who don't have the resources to send someone out to follow you around.


He says his problem with cell phones is that they can be used for surveillance. Later in the article he talks about how free software in the phone could protect you from eavesdropping (not surveillance). He is correct. If everything was encrypted, eavesdropping would be impossible. But they could still track your position.

So, unless I'm misreading things, he never says that the issue with surveillance is about "whether or not the software in the phone is 'free'".


Stallman wants to see a world built entirely with free and open software - in this world cell phones would be safe, since any and all surveillance-related code and functionality would be out in the open for anyone to see. There is no getting broadsided by sneaky surveillance code you didn't know was built into your phone.


Doesn't matter how open the source code is, the phone network still needs to know which cell you're in to direct your call. Knowing where you are is a fundamental part of the cellphone system.


Well, if all software was free, you could run your own base station, not just a phone. Likely other people would do the same thing. With a free and open cell network, tracking an individual cell phone would become much harder.

Another option might be for your phone to check into a different tower, or only check in at intermittent intervals, but I'm not sure that that would be enough - signal strength would probably give you away.


Well, if all software was free, you could run your own base station, not just a phone. Likely other people would do the same thing.

I look forward to this influx of wealthy and altruistic individuals.



> But I've noticed, over the years, that Stallman's most paranoid fears tend to come partially true.

I've noticed the same about Nostradamus' predictions. Oh, and Jules Verne's fiction. ;) Irony aside, counting how many vaguely described predictions came partially true, is hardly a good way to judge whether someone's opinion is right.

To judge whether a principle should be called moral or ethical, I try to ask myself whether it can be thought of a universal. Otherwise, it's just a matter of personal preferences.

Accordingly, Stallman's principles are just personal preferences although he tries to sell them as universal.

Surely, he's entitled to try but that doesn't make his principles right.


It's worth noting that the Chinese government is in fact debuting a system to track the movements of every cell phone in Beijing right now:

http://beta.sg.news.yahoo.com/beijing-trial-mobile-tracking-...

This isn't a prediction, it's reality today.


The Chinese government also runs the Great Firewall using primarily open source technologies.

Free software on phones? If anyone can sideload whatever they want onto any platform they want, it's the Chinese. How does this help you, when the cellphone towers are tracking your phone's every movement, and when attempts to evade that tracking are sufficient to get you arrested or worse?

The nature of the license for the software running on a radio has nothing to do with the ability to triangulate that radio, sadly.


The nature of the license for the software running on a radio has nothing to do with the ability to triangulate that radio, sadly.

But you don't have to disclose the fact that that radio source over there is jrockway's radio.

Freenet-style routing is an idea that comes to mind for solving this problem with software.


You're right, RMS could carry a Free Software phone right now, the OpenMoko. I think that your comment is basically condensing his argument. This problem is bigger than a Free Software issue, but any solution would require a Free Software base to resolve issues of trust.

That being said, it's going to be really tough to find a technical solution that allows people to be found in an emergency, but not tracked by a Big Brother government. The solution might end up being legislative.


Having met RMS a few times in my years at MIT, I have no doubt that he is genuine in his views and it's not merely the hyperbole you get some from pundits.

The unfortunate downside of this is that he doesn't generally see the need to find compromise positions that are palatable to those who maybe agree with his thoughts but don't have the exact same value set. I may see his concern about privacy, etc but I also need to be reachable when I'm not at my desk. By being too extreme in his views, he reduces the chance that they'll be taken seriously.


Honestly, after hearing his rants for years, I'm of the opinion that his language is far more extreme than his opinions. If you don't believe me, listen to some political talk shows. Not Glenn Beck, but the more mainstream ones. They're saying much more extreme things (when you think about them), but sounding much more rational than him.

Really, if he talked like a sane, reasonable, rational person, he could make the same arguments and persuade more people. Right now, his extremism is making his supporters sound bad. He's a liability to his own cause.

His filtering of technology is less extreme a change in lifestyle than veganism. But you can talk to most vegans and completely understand why they're doing what they're doing, and sympathize with their decisions far easier than this. The first, last, and only Stallman speech I went to gave me a real headache at the --- lets be honest -- Jackassitude of his entire presentation. I was on his side until I heard him speak!


Wow, they're really not comfortable with letting you see the URL for single page: http://www.networkworld.com/cgi-bin/mailto/x.cgi?pagetosend=...


Wouldn't you also need "free hardware" to avoid the risk of your device being used against you? If you're not willing to trust the software on your phone, why would you trust that there isn't a tracking device built directly into the chips on the phone?


Given the way GSM works you'd also need 'Free cell towers', 'Free GSNs' and a 'Free network'. Not that I even know how that would be possible. You'd also still need 'Free airwaves' because you can triangulate from your own broadcast signal in some cases.


The article does mention that Stallman uses a "rather slow" Lemote Yeeloong laptop because it's the only laptop with a free BIOS.


I thought it was the CPU microcode, not the BIOS? Because there are open source BIOSes that you can flash to a variety of more powerful machines.


you are probably correct. the article just mentioned the BIOS. i looked around and could not find specific mention of the microcode in the laptop's specs :http://libreplanet.org/wiki/Group:Hardware/Freest#Lemote_Yee... or on Stallman's page : http://stallman.org/stallman-computing.html or in this FSF paper page on free hardware: http://www.fsf.org/resources/hw/how_hardware_vendors_can_hel...


Which is untrue. I just purchased a Genesi Smartbook, which uses u-Boot and wasn't designed in a fascist country with a penchant for electronic espionage.


is u-Boot a System BIOS? it appears to be a Bootloader: http://sourceforge.net/projects/u-boot/

Bootloaders are executed after the BIOS.


With a software system, unwanted code can be injected into the system at any time without your knowledge. This isn't true of hardware.


I lost all respect for RMS when I saw him speak at WordCamp San Francisco 2010 - he spoke, and acted like a total child. I'd point you to the video of it, but he made them shut down the live stream before he started (after he was late, which he blamed on Google Maps).


So, is it currently possible to run the Replicant fork of Android on a Motorola Droid on the Verizon network? I would like to give that a try, if so.

This page says how to port Replicant to a new phone, but not which phones and networks it's been done for.

http://trac.osuosl.org/trac/replicant/wiki/How_to_port_Repli...


Drug dealers have known for years about untraceable cell-phones. One brand in the US is (strangely) called "tracfone". You can buy one for $20 cash, and, since there's no contract, it's way more difficult to link you to the device and therefore more difficult to track your movements.

Also, I don't think proprietary software is a moral issue. People should have the right to make and buy something non-free if they wish. I do admire Stallman's principled lifestyle, though.

Finally, it's interesting that Kevin Kelly (former editor of Wired), in his awesome book "What Technology Wants", also makes the case for not owning a cell phone, but for different reasons.


Just put your phone into airplane mode when you aren't using it.

It has the benefit of making the batteries last extra long (because the cell and wifi radios are turned off).


I have not read this article, but RMS surely would argue that without a completely open stack, you cannot really know what airplane mode does. You can check that it doesn't broadcast at any moment you want to check that, but how do you know it doesn't switch on for 5 seconds every 4 days, 13 hours, and 52 seconds, except for Thursdays or in March? Also, how do you know that it isn't listening for secret commands all the time?


Wire a toggle switch to cut the connection between the baseband and the antenna, and it shouldn't be able to transmit more than a few inches.


Well just take the battery out then, lol


I recall recently reading that Erik Prince the ex CEO of Xe / Blackwater in this interview takes his batter out of his phone so it doesn't get turned into a wireless mic.

http://www.mensjournal.com/an-american-commando-in-exile

Nice closing paragraph in the Network World article. Then again I live in Madison, Wi.


And anyone who is likely to be tracked is going to know this, and will not trust phone communications.

The more you have to hide, the more protections you must take. You cannot rely on technology. In extreme cases, it means eschewing technology entirely, living in caves, and living in Afghanistan and Sudan.

You cannot rely on that which you do not control, including free software.


I don't quite see the point of what he is doing. I mean certainly there is power to it if the public at large follows his lead, but he's resigned to the fact that that won't happen. It's hard to imagine a scenario where he will have more freedom on an individual level than the rest of us because of these decisions.


In some U.S. states, cars cannot legally operate on the road unless they've been "validated" by the government. This worries me greatly; I should be able to drive whatever car I want, free from unwanted control.

And this is why, instead of getting my emissions checked every year, I choose not to use cars, or even public busses.


I should be able to drive whatever car I want, free from unwanted control

Even if that car is a coal-fired chariot with whirling spikes extending from the axles?

I agree with your sentiment entirely, but also recognize that so long as I live within the confines of human society, absolute freedom is impossible.


So you should be able to drive a car that has heavy tracks that chews up and destroys public roads, loudspeakers blaring 110db pink noise, emits a safe but heavily odourous powder that coats the buildings it passes by, and has random rotating high power searchlights guaranteed to throw blinding rays into other drivers' eyes, should you so feel like it? All so you can escape the 'burden of control'?

When you do drive, do you bother to follow traffic lights? I mean, they're just another form of the government telling you what you can and can't do. You should just be able to drive when you like, where you like, right? Similarly license plates should be discarded, as they're just another way for the government to track your activities, which we should be free from.

To be clear, what I'm trying to illustrate is the pointlessness of absolutist statements. Being human is an exercise in compromises, and libertarian talking points fail to take this into account.


Forgive me, this post is intended to be facetious.

My personal view is that the societal desire for and against privacy and human rights always trumps any technological barriers. Hitler and Stalin, for example, were able to do pretty bad things despite having relatively primitive technology. Examples date back to the dawn of recorded history. Even today, I can be tracked using my license plate number, fingerprints, DNA, etc. pretty handily. Where there is a will, there is a way. Fortunately, our society does not have the political will to do it--and, in fact, would likely find inappropriate tracking to be revolting.

In this respect I think Stallman is way off base. Fighting to make sure your phone runs OSS does little to ensure that the culture we live in values the right things and has an ideal political structure (representative democracy). I'd argue it's a dangerous distraction, in fact, because it promulgates the incorrect notion that if only we had open technology, we'd be free from criminals, dictators, and other bad things, and we'd live in a world of ponies and rainbows. Because this is not true, I fear this effort diverts attention from where it deserves to be. That said, RMS's scare tactics to help to some degree, by reminding people that our societal values will always need to be projected into the latest wave of technology. I think this tends to happen naturally and organically, but whatever.

Fortunately, the flipside is pretty good: given the right political environment, privacy and technological regulation can coexist peacefully. This is good because some amount of regulation of the commons is necessary and good, and this extends to new technologies (like the car, or the cell phone).


Solved that years ago, just need the money to get a chauffeur


The headline doesn't at all sum up this article. It's not about Stallman's opinion about phones in particular.


I think we nerdy types know this in the back of our minds about smartphones, but it's good to be reminded of it again from time to time.


Yet again proving that RMS has no concept of the convenience-privacy continuum. Nothing to see here.


First, the word you're thinking of is "demonstrating," not "proving." But let's get to the big stuff. What is this "convenience-privacy continuum?" I just did a web search, I can't find anything. Citation, please. Third, I dispute your suggestion that there is nothing to see here. Strongly. Forcefully.

If someone has never read anything about or by Mr. Stallman, there is plenty to see here. There may be nothing to see here for you, but when you say "Nothing to see here," you are speaking in absolutes. I have read a fair bit about his beliefs and I found a few things of interest in the article, such as the discussion about the Replicant variation of Android and the Tivoization of Android by carriers. This may not be news to you, but it's news to me.

Therefore, I say there is something to see here.

I can't speak to your thinking or motivations, so what follows is a general observation: On HN we have a principle of not downvoting comments just because we disagree. Upvotes and downvotes are ideally applied on the basis of whether they contribute positively to the discussion. A contribution can be made simply by opening a new line of thought, even if the premise is flawed.

I am not going to get into whether I agree or disagree with Mr. Stallman's beliefs. However, I will suggest that his various missives, rants, and other statements contribute positively to the general fabric of discussion around software freedom and personal privacy. This suggestion is open to discussion: I am aware that some people think his zeal does more harm than good. But that's what I believe.

I said above that I believe the article provides a public good by including information that someone like myself may not have already known. I now suggest that the article also presents something that is a public good by contributing positively to the general fabric of discussion about cell phone technology and privacy, even if you or I might disagree with Mr. Stallman's views.

You are free to draw your own conclusions, of course. I'm just trying to explain mine.


People are turned off by RMS's extreme stance and the "Stalin's dream" hyperbole, but the problems he is talking about certainly do exist. They're something to think about.

I wonder if there is really a need to choose either convenience or privacy in the long run. Privacy-conscious technologies could be made easy to use. We're just not there yet, but it seems that lately security is being taken more seriously. When people realize how much of their lives they are giving away there might be a push for it...


Lightening up the tone, I wish we could figure out a way to use Stallman as a bad cop: "Mr. FCC chairman, I appreciate the arguments the Telcos have made to you on the Golf Course. But if you don't display a little flexibility on the subject of Net Neutrality, we're going to have Richard back in here eating his toenails during the hearings. And once he starts talking, it's impossible to get him to stop. Nobody wants that. So how about we do this..."


we're going to have Richard back in here eating his toenails

I find this incredibly disrespectful. I considered flagging it because I think it's on the order of insulting someone's spouse, but I don't think that's exactly what "flag" is for.


If you consider it incredibly disrespectful, go ahead and flag it with my blessing. This is a community. Everyone has the right to express their feelings, and your feeling seems to be that this is an inappropriate comment.


Not antagonising you, but you are aware that he did something similar during a lecture once, right? His lack of concern for social norms is... intriguing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I25UeVXrEHQ


However, I will suggest that his various missives, rants, and other statements contribute positively to the general fabric of discussion around software freedom and personal privacy.

ESR stated in Revolution OS that RMS's 'wholesale attack' on (was it software patents or intellectual property? i don't remember now) was one of the reasons it was hard to convince businesses this wasn't just a hippie pipe dream.

The OpenMoko runs all Free code, afaik, so the whole "being tracked by Big Brother" deal sounds like tinfoil hat syndrome. This particular rant only points out that most cellphones run on proprietary software. Why don't we just shout about anything that uses proprietary software like cars or industrial manufacturing equipment? We know it's proprietary, but comparing it all to a fascist regime isn't going to contribute positively to a discussion to make it more open.


Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think that a fully free cell phone OS is preventing you from being tracked. Even if free software was bug/backdoors free (I'm not sure about it). How do you connect to the network? Through a SIM-card, with an ID, linked to your cell-phone contract. And whatever goes on the broadband/network of your cell phone contract provider is free to read for him. You don't initiate your phone calls with an exchange of GPG keys with your contact, nor do you register your contract with a fake name. The only solution for that is the combination of a prepaid SIM in cash with encrypted VOIP on 3G+.


You can be tracked anywhere there's a communications infrastructure. It is required for things like law enforcement as well as being part of the protocols that run the network. Since basically every country on the planet does this, comparing it to a Stalinist order seems retarded, and I don't think it will ever change.


Better yet, if you are transmitting anything, there's these wonderful devices called "Radio direction finders".

We dont need to know how GSM is transmitted, or what encryption schemes they're using. If you are outputting a signal, you can be found. Hell, there's competitions for RDF.

Now, just not carrying a cell phone is a good idea on not being tracked. Next best is taking the battery out of the phone. "Off" does not mean off, even in airplane mode. Some GSM frames are still transmitted, as per what my fellow ham geeks have told me (I'm one as well).


The OpenMoko does not run all free code, and neither does any other shipping cellular device. The code in the baseband processor is very specifically NOT open on anything. In most cases, neither is the GPS. This is because, iirc, that the FCC requires it to be that way, for spectrum licensing and usage reasons.


Ok, this is a good point. The code encrypting/decrypting the GSM is not open, which means it'll eventually be cracked, and until then we have to just assume nobody else has figured it out. But does this have anything to do with being spied on?

Other than the government decoding your GSM communications (which it can just ask Ma Bell to tap without a warrant and get away with, according to the W.Bush-era abuses) I don't see that particular un-free code helping in tracking or spying on you.


Well, it's not open, and all comms go through it - we have no idea what it actually does?


It's not "tin foil hat" it old news that's just being ignored.

http://news.cnet.com/2100-1029_3-6140191.html

Tin foil hats wouldn't be quite as silly if mind control rays were real and already used in the field.


Only re. point two, googling "privacy vs convenience" returns a whole mess of articles, about cell phones, data mining, etc.


While I agree with the merit of what you just said, you too ended up sounding smug and arrogant.

Open your comment in a text editor and count how many times you said " I ".


Everyone has their own style and code of conduct. I feel it's disingenuous for me to state personal opinions in a neutral tone, implying that they are facts.

I also find such writing bloodless. Others may have a knack for doing it well, but when I write without putting myself into the words, it reads like I'm pretending to be an academic writing a paper with all the neutrality and "fair and balanced" viewpoints.

Context affects my perspective on this. Sites like Quora, Stack Exchange, and Wikipedia exist to build compendiums of knowledge. Neutrality is crucial to their mission. But is the article comments of Hacker News the same kind of place? I don't know, but so far I don't think so. (I could have written, "But so far it seems this is not the case," I imagine). Hacker News is composed of people discussing ideas with people. Personal opinions seem to be the point of the comments section.

So... When I state my opinions I use the word "I."


p.s. Thinking about it, although I explained why I use the word "I," I certainly didn't dispute that I sounded smug and arrogant. So perhaps (a) I ought to use the word "I" when stating my opinions, but (b) I'm going to sound smug and arrogant when doing so. Which presents a few possibilities:

1. Stop using the word "I" but continue to state my opinions. 2. Stop stating my opinions. 3. Carry on, but live with the consequences of sounding smug and arrogant.

Is it possible that throwing opinions around is smug and arrogant, no matter how they are couched? Perhaps the real issue here is between pretending to be humble (option 1) or actually being humble (option 2)?

Whackberry, this is very interesting, and I'm sorry I only have one upvote to give your response.


I didn't find it smug in the least. (Alternate formation: it was not found smug in the least by this commenter.) One of the core principles of positive communication is to use "I" statements in place of blanket judgments: it's the difference between "This sucks" and "I don't like this".


I'm not so sure you came off as smug or arrogant. Seemed to me you read one too many "pat little comments" and had a bit of a rant. That is ok, as it was decently written, coherent, and stayed on point.

If we want to start throwing around nearly antiquated terms of insult, it should be noted that the OP was being snide, and whackberry was being iniquitous. (This is true whether or not your comment was in fact smug btw).


I totally agree with your comments about personal style, it's what makes the comments unique. However, I agree with whackberry that, in this particular case, you did sound somewhat "smug and arrogant".

It wasn't the use of "I"s. It was:

* Your borderline ad hominem-like nitpicking about "proving" vs "demonstrating". Unless there are gross language problems, I'd rather have people disagree with the ideas rather than language use.

* Your incredulous stance that you didn't understand what whackberry refers to when s/he writes "convenience-privacy continuum?" and asking for citation. I would have used the word "spectrum" but still I think it's perfectly clear what s/he means, and it's a well-known topic.

* Your last sentence, which sort of sounds dismissive of what the person you are disagreeing with thinks.


I think it's perfectly clear what s/he means, and it's a well-known topic

I didn't think it was perfectly clear, especially in the context of saying that Mr. Stallman doesn't understand or accept it. I can conjecture what I think people mean when they say this and what argument they are making and why they think Mr. Stallman doesn't agree with them, but how do I argue with my conception of someone else's conception of what Mr. Stallman believes without attacking a strawman?

I thought it was far better to challenge the phrase and ask what it means. If someone replies and says "There's trade-off between convenience and privacy," we can have a chat about false dichotomies or whether the convenience is for telcos or for users, and so on. Or maybe they explain something else, and I might discover something unexpected.


It's dishonest to act like you have no idea what someone is talking about when, in fact, you "can conjecture what you think people mean". It's dishonest to pretend that you're entertaining the possibility that they have a citation when you know they don't. It seemed like you were trying to mock them by asking for a citation.

You could have just as easily written:

I think the trade-off between convenience and privacy is a false dichotomy.

And waited for a response or a correction. Or if you wanted to check first:

When you say privacy/convenience continuum, do you mean the trade-off between convenience and privacy?

Or if you didn't want to hazard a guess:

What do you mean when you say privacy/convenience continuum?

Any of which would have been far more gracious than what you actually said.


The fact that I can conjecture doesn't mean that I should. This is one of those "Heads you win, tails I lose" situations. You think it's dishonest to ask "What do you mean? Can you give an example of what this phrase means?" Someone else thinks it's insulting, rude, or just plain fallacious to say "You mean X and this is why I disagree" if I get X wrong. The correct response is not "Reg, you're being dishonest in asking what I mean," it's "Reg, I mean _____, for example _____."

I didn't pretend to entertain the possibility of a citation, he (or you) could easily reply "It's the same thing as this thing or that thing, just different words." I still entertain this possibility.

If you want to say I was ungracious in replying to an incredibly terse statement, I do not disagree. But dishonesty doesn't enter into asking someone what they mean by a phrase that I haven't seen before--and which doesn't have Google hits--and asking for a citation.

Terse? Yes. Ungracious? Sure, why not. Dishonest? I don't think so.

EDIT: But still, thanks for the feedback. I like where you're coming from about graciousness.


    First, the word you're thinking of is "demonstrating," not "proving." But let's get to the big stuff.
Since we are being snarky, what's with "Mr. Stallman"? Is he your high school math teacher?


This interview started out on a cell phone, but with repeated dropped calls they had to finish it via email, presumably on RMS's all-free-software laptop. So in this instance covenience and privacy were on the same end of this supposed continuum.


RMS is aware of the continuum and chooses to take an extreme position.

Many websites have a white background. Are the designers aware that there are other colors besides the default?


You seem to think that convenience and privacy are somehow mutually exclusive. For a non programmer right now, which often has the choice between convenient proprietary spying software, and hard-to-use free software, I can understand. So does RMS, by the way: "Few people are willing to make the sacrifices he will for the goal of software freedom, Stallman acknowledges".

But in the long run, those issues are orthogonal. Encryption doesn't make user interface suck. Neither does the licence.


They are not completely orthogonal. For example, it will always be harder to send completely secure messages because you are now doing more things: managing keys, exchanging keys, etc. I agree that security/usability is not a one dimensional continuum, but they aren't independent variables, either.


>Implying convenience is an objectively measurable quality that is the same for everyone.

This is obviously wrong. Convenience is completely tied to someone's particular uses. I don't see the point of using a phone for anything but phonecalls, I don't need the internet with me all the time, and I dislike small screens and small keyboards. Therefore, I have no use for smartphones.

I'm not going to do the same demonstration for privacy, but let's just say that there is no such continuum.


I have to agree with raganwald and say that I have no idea what you mean by the "convenience-privacy continuum" here.

Do you mean that more convenient technologies are by nature less private? Or do you mean that you can convince people to give up their privacy in exchange for convenience?

The second is clearly true (currently at least), but I don't see any evidence of the first.


A little unrelated, but... "gNewSense" is the worst name for a laptop I've heard in a long time.


gNewSense is actually the "GNU/Linux" distribution: http://www.gnewsense.org/

The laptop is the Lemote Yeeloong -- which I'll grant isn't much better to English ears.


"gNewSense" sounds like a play on the word "nuisance."


In Soviet Russia, cell phone call you!




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