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Free Software: An idea whose time has passed? (medium.com/r0ml)
211 points by altsalt 6 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 447 comments



> My interest in free or open source software has never been either political or industrial. My interest has always been educational. That is, access to the source code provided the opportunity to learn from it. So, in the same spirit as the Open Source / Free Software distinction, I coined the term Liberal Software to refer to software where the intent of the programmer is educational (liberal as in education). Any one of these three intents can produce software for which the source code is available — and that is often called FLOSS, meaning Free, Liberal, or Open Source Software.

As far as I can tell, the L in "FLOSS" is typically "libre," not "Liberal." I feel like the author is vastly and misleadingly inflating his relevance in this post.


> Today’s topic is political software.

Indeed. And the article is playing dirty politics, imho. The L in "FLOSS" means Libre to me too. The only way I have ever seen it used. Redefining its common meaning is disingenious. Call the alternative FLIBERO or something.. free, liberal, open. And build your story around that. If people like it, it may gain traction. And otherwise.. too bad. But don't hijack existing acronyms like this.

(OT: Hijacking terminology happens more often by big tech. The other day I came upon a great example, but forgot. But terms like "serverless" are example, meaning 'servers abstracted away by The Cloud')


Shared source is the term for what he means, code for educational purposes only.


I believed that the L meant libre but libre when translated from Spanish to English literly translates as 'free'

So in floss, that would be free free open source software.

Which doesn't seem right? Unless there is another meaning to libre I'm missing?


It's to disambiguate the english uses of the word "free." It's free as in freedom, not free as in beer. Libre (in French, as it is used in the acronym) only means the former.


In Spanish as well, because the other meaning of the English "free" (as in free beer) is translated as "gratis", which comes straight from Latin.


It seems the oxford dictionary also has an entry for -gratis- in the english language (middle-age from the same latin origin, as -late middle english-

Interesting!


Given that, I think we should change the acronym to GLOSS.

edit: could mean Gratis and/or Libre Open Source Software


That would enshrine the exact misunderstanding that this thread is trying to correct. Free software is not necessarily gratis.


Then why not call it LOSS? The F has to mean something, and if it doesn't mean libre it either means gratis or it's redundant and confusing. GLOSS could be a different thing, to differentiate it from PLOSS (paid libre open source software).


Free Software was coined by (probably) RMS to highlight how users of such software are getting a number of _freedoms_: namely those to use, modify and share that software onwards (with or without their modifications).

It is in opposition to "restricted" software where you are restricted in all of those. (Copyleft software restrict others from adding more restrictions, which is defensible but some BSD proponents disagree)

Libre is, as many have said, just the Latin word for Free. You'd still have to explain what it means in this context.

"Open Source" has similar problems: many think that it's enough for source code to be available for inspection for software to be called "Open Source", but it is just a another attempt to market a philosophy under a particular name.

These constructs are created to have a special meaning to promote an ideology, and are thus usually capitalized in English. This is nothing uncommon, and attempting to use these—now accepted—phrases to mean something else is bound to cause confusion. So, just like you learn what a "programming language" or "HyperText Transport Protocol" is (yes, one transfers a lot more than just "HyperText" over it), if you are in IT, one should learn what "Free Software" and "Open Source" mean.


The F is to keep the FSF happy.

I do like the idea of distinction between GLOSS and PLOSS, but we've got enough acronym soup at this point that I'd say just stick with FLOSS.

Also, many people who only speak English don't know the word Libre.


> Then why not call it LOSS?

Because then people would think they are losing something by using it? /s


Well, not all libre software is gratis.


Indeed, in Dutch we have "Vrij" (Libre, free as in freedom) and "Gratis" (a term I sometimes see used on international fora as well, meaning free, as in beer). Since English does not have this distinction Libre was used. I never ever associated it with Liberal.


In German too, "frei" and "gratis/kostenlos". However, paradoxically "free beer" is actually "Freibier", not "Gratis-Bier"...


With beer it's a bit special, because beers you didn't pay for have some freedom: they can decide to leave your stomach even against your will back the way they came :D

But if you paid for it, they ain't allowed to, of course.


That makes more sense thanks.


It refers to the civil liberties kind of Free. You have the term "free” as in “free speech,” not as in “free beer”. The Libre makes it clear that the first kind of Free is referred to here.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_and_open-source_software

Update: The distinction is important. It also entails that people should be able to earn a living by providing FLOSS software. Many people that don't know much about FLOSS think of it as the "Free beer" variant (something promoted by much of big tech, which is seemingly free). There can be good business models attached to FLOSS (though devs have a very hard time to monetize in practice).

I heartily applaud anyone trying to monetize FLOSS based on decent principles and values, rather than just bottom-line, willingly taking the hard road of founding a bootstrapped, sustainable business.


The issue is that the word "free" in English has two meanings, while other languages have two separate words for each meaning (gratis = free of charge, libre = free as in freedom). The reason why L means Libre is to emphasise that the "free" in "free software" refers to the libre meaning of the word "free", not necessarily the gratis meaning.

This is also what the phrase "free as in speech, not as in beer" attempts to disambiguate.


And then, just to complicate matters, there is free beer – “Free as in free speech”.

http://freebeer.org/blog/recipe


To add to the other answers, the acronym used to be FOSS. People changed it to FLOSS exactly because unethical corporations kept exploiting the confusion between "libre" and gratis on the English language to misinform people.

(Notably Microsoft had the gals to do it in its English PR and translate all over the world, including literal translations to Latin languages where both words are completely different.)


Yeah, and “FLOSS” is just an example of that. The whole text is painfully self-aggrandising with no real insight.


Robert, the author, has a very twisty tongue. Twisting meanings, and (his) intents.


The author is quite clearly an ignoramus on the topic of FLOSS, and can be safely ignored. I'm not sure how this got to the front page of HN. It's embarrassing, frankly.


indeed, I'm not native speaking, but is - 'Thirdly, the rhetoric of Free Software devotees is awkward and unconvincing.' - 'devotee' respectful rhetoric? Isn't that, well, awkward and unconvincing?


Yes a bit of a dog whistle given the current use of "liberal" in the USA


From the OP:

> Caring about who gets the credit more than successfully creating change is not a good look.

So yeah, the author is disingenuous at best.

Another point where they pretend not to see the benefits: Free Software and specifically copyleft has succeeded in getting so many manufacturers to publish their kernel source code, opening the door for bringing more freedom to a bunch of people using their technological devices today (eg. all the ROMs for phones and IoT devices).

And the attempt to highlight the "metonymy" (you know they are bullshitting as soon as they start using terms unfamiliar to the masses) in "free press" but argue against "free software" standing for "software that can be freely used" is very hypocritical too. Righto, who is this "the speech" in "free speech" (alluding to their use of "the software" group).

I've given up reading at that point because it's a post by someone bitter focusing on an unproven premise (how a political ideology has failed if there is no change in leadership for more than 10 years — maybe it's because centralised leadership is not necessary to achieve it ;-)).

Anyway, language is free for people to adapt to their needs, and no amount of elitist grammatical nitpicking will ever change that.


(liberal as in education)

I don't understand. What definition of "liberal" has a meaning in education?



Yep, it is libre, so as to invoke "free as in freedom" rather than "free as in beer"


Well he does claim advocacy for social justice and other authoritarian left political ideologies, it is common practice in those circles to refine terms to meet their political objectives so it is not shocking he would attempt to redefine FLOSS to meet his political needs


Searching "free liberal open source software" basically just returns sites that copied Wikipedia's FOSS page that calls it a counter to neoliberalism.


[flagged]


The Liberal Party in Australia is from the conservative side of the house, so those on the left call themselves Progressives.


In the Netherlands, we have both a conservative-liberal and a progressive-liberal party, which are currently the largest and second-largest parties. The first is clearly part of the right, the second portrays itself as centrist but is considered by many to lean to the left (I'm simplifying).


I think the issue is that there are "economically liberal" politics (= free market above everything else) and "socially liberal" politics (e.g. pro gay marriage etc.). In the US, these are split between the Republicans (more economically liberal) and Democrats (more socially liberal). The party which is radically liberal in both senses is the (very small) Libertarian Party.


Wait you support FOSS because of education? I wonder how you feel about college education and student debt then...


">" fyi means the the following paragraph is a quote, just in case you missed it.


Why do I need to quote it? It's right above.


They are explaining to you that in the post you replied to, the part prefixed “>” was a quote from the article and your original post reads as if you thought that part was an expression of the comment authors opinion. The only part of the post you replied to that was not from the article was:

> As far as I can tell, the L in "FLOSS" is typically "libre," not "Liberal." I feel like the author is vastly and misleadingly inflating his relevance in this post.


Ahh I replied to the wrong thread. I meant to reply to the parent thread but the point still stands imo.


I dare one person to actually articulate their response if they downvoted.


> I coined the term Liberal Software to refer to software where the intent of the programmer is educational (liberal as in education). Any one of these three intents can produce software for which the source code is available — and that is often called FLOSS, meaning Free, Liberal, or Open Source Software.

I can find no evidence of this term being used anywhere outside of this piece; FLOSS is consistently expanded by people discussing the term as “Free/Libre and Open Source", where “Libre” disambiguates the sense of “free”.

The author may have coined a term that happens to spelled identically to a popular term, but the clear insinuation that the popular term refers to the authors hobby horse is grossly misleading and obviously deliberately so.


Richard Stallmann has an interesting piece on FLOSS and FOSS definition, containing this:

> A researcher studying practices and methods used by developers in the free software community decided that these questions were independent of the developers' political views, so he used the term “FLOSS,”

Unfortunately he doesn't name that researcher, whom he is attributing FLOSS to. Anyone knows?

According to Stallmann "FLOSS" is the most inclusive term including open source with a non-free license though:

> Thus, if you want to be neutral between free software and open source, and clear about them, the way to achieve that is to say “FLOSS,” not “FOSS.”

So and I'm suprised by that, while L stands for libre according to Stallman, the acronym FLOSS is a actually a more liberal term because it is neutral to whether the software in question free or only open source.

[0] https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/floss-and-foss.en.html


"Open source with a non-free license" essentially doesn't exist.

The opensource definition [0] and free software definition [1] are similar enough in outcome (if not intent) that such a thing is basically impossible.

Last time I looked the only difference between the OSI's and FSF's lists of acceptable licenses was the OpenWatcom license, which requires you to release the source even when you just deploy it privately. This was a mistake on part of the OSI and should not have been accepted. At least Debian, Fedora and the FSF consider it to be unacceptable.

[0] https://opensource.org/osd [1] https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.en.html


Isn’t something like the MIT License open source but not “free software” in the rms sense because it does not encumber people who build on it to in turn produce free software themselves?

The open source page also says “ The license must not place restrictions on other software that is distributed along with the licensed software. For example, the license must not insist that all other programs distributed on the same medium must be open-source software.” which would seem to disqualify the GPL.


> Isn’t something like the MIT License open source but not “free software” in the rms sense because it does not encumber people who build on it to in turn produce free software themselves?

No. The FSF considers the MIT license to be a Free software license compatible with the GPL. [1]

> The open source page also says “ The license must not place restrictions on other software that is distributed along with the licensed software. For example, the license must not insist that all other programs distributed on the same medium must be open-source software.” which would seem to disqualify the GPL.

Section 5 of GPLv3 ("Conveying Modified Source Versions.") contains the following text:

'A compilation of a covered work with other separate and independent works, which are not by their nature extensions of the covered work, and which are not combined with it such as to form a larger program, in or on a volume of a storage or distribution medium, is called an “aggregate” if the compilation and its resulting copyright are not used to limit the access or legal rights of the compilation's users beyond what the individual works permit. Inclusion of a covered work in an aggregate does not cause this License to apply to the other parts of the aggregate.'

IANAL, but to me, that means the license doesn't insist on all other software on the same medium being licensed under the GPL.

[1] https://www.gnu.org/licenses/license-list.html#X11License


Well, fair enough. It seems somewhat contradictory to the spirit of the thing, but if they count it who am I to disagree.


It's logical to assume the free/open source software disagreement would be over copyleft licenses, then the separation of the two would seem meaningful. But the spirit is mostly a disagreement over the use of the word "free," in 99% of cases both terms mean the same thing.


My understanding of it was that the "free software" movement is making moral claims about how software should be distributed while the "open source" movement is just saying "hey, this stuff is cool and useful" and doesn't have the same kind of uncompromising stance. Which would fit well with the license thing.


> Isn’t something like the MIT License open source but not “free software” in the rms sense because it does not encumber people who build on it to in turn produce free software themselves?

No, the FSF specifically IDENTIFIES MIT as meeting the Free Software Definition, which does not require any such requirement.

Now, Stallman and the FSF have identified reasons that they prefer copyleft licenses like the (A)GPL for many uses, but that isn't the same as considering them the only Free licenses.

> The open source page also says “ The license must not place restrictions on other software that is distributed along with the licensed software. For example, the license must not insist that all other programs distributed on the same medium must be open-source software.” which would seem to disqualify the GPL.

The GPL explicitly does not put any restrictions on other software merely because if is distributed along with the licensed software.


Is free software really free if it encumbers people who build upon it to conform to its ideals?

I really think copyleft being free is a stretch people make because of what an uphill battle free software has. I mean peep the name 'copyleft'


It is quite easy for every side in a debate to convince themselves they’re on the side of “freedom” by giving different weights to various positive and negative freedoms, so I don’t consider this is a very useful line of inquiry.


MIT is a free license according to the FSF, see https://www.gnu.org/licenses/license-list.en.html.


Unreal Engine? If I got it right you get the source but not the permission to redistribute it.


This is not "open source" as in the definition above. It's "source available".


"Caring about who gets the credit more than successfully creating change is not a good look."


If that's the case, why is the author trying to redefine the term FLOSS for their own ideology?

I understand the argument that FLOSS (Libre) was always a movement that was not just about software, but just because it is not only about software does not imply that shoving any random ideology into it (as the author is doing) is welcome.

I reiterate: if credit doesn't matter to the author, why is he trying to steal credit for FLOSS?

Hypocritical, intellectually dishonest, and borderline fraudulent to make the claims he is making.


I don't think exception being taken is because of credit, rather that it changes the meaning of the original acronym.


https://lwn.net/Articles/712376/

It's not a brand new construction (the link has the author of the piece using the term several years ago). I think you are right about the L though.


People are focusing on the "liberal software" part but boy is the article full of dismissiveness of the real concerns of people who care about freedom and social justice where it connects with software. "Software vendors won’t usually be inserting spyware into their wares." Are you sure about that? It sounds like someone has been selectively reading the news for the last decade or so, somehow the author skipped the Snowden leaks and if you need something more recent, the controversy around Zoom.

This is a terrible document that is riddled with so many inaccuracies that it doesn't convince anyone other than the uninformed. If anything, the last few years have highlighted the need for Free Software and proved many of the alarmist warnings of advocates were prescient actually and not so alarmist.


A bit further down the road you have Lenovo endangering their customers with the Superfish[1] spyware.

And please don't give me "that was on consumer models only". I really couldn't care less. A company pulling off such dirty shit winds up on my eternal shitlist. No matter how great their "professional" products are.

I'm sure there are countless other examples.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superfish


I'm reminded of Sony's rootkit that was, well, just awful, in every respect - ethically, engineering, etc.

Interesting that the founders of Superfish are both Israeli, I wonder if they both served with the Unit 8200 that was posted on here recently?


But isn't this part of the point the author of the article is trying to make? In case of Superfish it was United States Department of Homeland Security who advised uninstalling it and in case of Sony's rootkit, a class-action lawsuit. In both cases higher authorities hired by people to protect them, protected them. Not FSF, nor the fact that the code wasn't GPL.

Even if Superfish was GPL licensed, the issue would've persisted. As article mentions even laptops coming with Linux pre-installed hardly come with the Kernel and userspace tools source code and you need to download them separately. Should Lenovo have preloaded Superfish as Linux kernel module and shipped it to its consumer laptops, United States Department of Homeland Security would have still advised removing it.


In both examples, a higher authority may have also acted but if they had done the same with free software things either would have been caught immediately or a lawsuit would have been possible for breach of license if they tried to hide it.

>In both cases higher authorities hired by people to protect them, protected them. Not FSF,

The FSF did a better job of protecting them with their unwavering stance. Neither would ever have caused an issue if you followed their advice to never use non-free software.


It's like someone hasn't even picked up a phone in the past decade. Nearly every app on your phone would have been considered spyware or adware just years ago.

Pretty much the only things on my phone that aren't adware or spyware are free software apps.


A web browser made by an advertising company is the currently the most popular web browser.


It's basically a pirate ship.


That's why I have only few apps installed and if it's possible I opt for the paid version. (I do appreciate Fdroid though)

Still, I think it used to be much worse or at least more obvious in the early 2000s. At that time Shareware was still a thing and it was normal for installers to add completely unrelated 3rdparty software. Probably that's also half the explanation why Windows used to be so unreliable, half of the ecosystem around was just random stuff.


> "Software vendors won’t usually be inserting spyware into their wares."

JFC. I'm sorry, but this "article" can be dismissed on that alone. Software vendors already are inserting spyware into their "wares." Did the author do any research?


The article can be entirely dismissed on pompous pseudo-intellectual pontification such as:

> The Free Software coterie is fond of insisting that words mean what they say they mean, and that is a profound misunderstanding of the nature of language. Such linguistic naïveté is not an asset in pursuing political goals.

Uh, take your snooty diaeresis and shove it where l'accent aigu don't shine?

Defining terms is par for the course in the general intellectual sphere. Academic papers, data sheets for microchips and ISO standards for programming languages all define terms and insist on using them in the defined way.

If that's not enough, there is outright misinformed claptrap:

> With all that said, the intent of the adherents to the term Free Software is to seek to promote certain freedoms for the users of software, by depriving the creators of software (at least in the United States) of the rights afforded them by Congress under Article I, Section VIII, Clause VIII.

What? Creators of software are deprived of freedoms by the Free Software Foundation? Not simply encouraged to copyleft their software, while retaining all rights to license it in other ways at the same time?

Crazy.


A grating distortion in the article is that Stallman and the FSF tried to take the credit for Linux. ("The Free Software Foundation is famously fixated on insisting that it be given credit for Linux.") Stallman just wanted recognition for the GNU part of Linux distributions based on a GNU user space. "GNU/Linux" not "GNU Linux". Stallman never, ever wanted to take credit for the Linux kernel; that is ridiculous.

More abhorrent than that is the position that free software should be done in such a way that nobody claims credit, justified by a glib quote from Harry Truman. Harry Truman was a politician and, for a time, president of the United States. Presidents rely on other people to execute plans, and implicitly get credit for everything good that happens during their reign anyway, as well as blame for the bad. So it's easy to make seemingly magnanimous statements of that sort. I would rather say that the absence of a blame environment is more conductive to getting things done, rather than the absence of credit.

Software is a creative work made by specific authors, who undeniably deserve credit. Credit transcends even copyright. To falsely claim authorship of a work in the public domain isn't a copyright violation, yet it is plagiarism. It will forever be plagiarism, even when the work is millennia old. Falsely claiming to have produced a cave painting that is 30,000 years old is plagiarism. Some unknown prehistoric person is credited with that.

The western intellectual tradition is heavily steeped in credit. Theories, equations, industrial processes, objects and phenomena in nature, and other entities connected to ideas and discovery, are often named after individuals. Maxwell's equations, Einstein's relativity, Rayleigh scattering, Bell's palsy, Fermat's Last Theorem, Pascal's Triangle, Haber-Bosch process for ammonia production, Early effect in transistors ... credit, credit everywhere in STEM, philosophy, the humanities.

I find it obnoxiously odious for someone to dare suggest that free software developers should disrobe themselves of claims to credit. In free software, credit is your only reward, more often than not.


> the intent of the adherents to the term Free Software is to seek to promote certain freedoms for the users of software, by depriving the creators of software

Oh, he's one of that kind of cunts. Someone with an axe to grind against FLOSS because he obviously hasn't studied history of copyright in addition to his misunderstanding of FLOSS.


Software vendors basically have to be dragged kicking and screaming into not inserting spyware into their wares.

Look at the giant tantrum basically every software vendor is throwing over the quite reasonable restrictions that the EU placed on spyware. I have to tell users about the spyware I'm inflicting on them and ask for consent first? End of the world.


Yeah, that's the moment I stopped taking anything in the article seriously.

But hey, if this guy's really a software architect then he might've cured my Impostor Syndrome, so I guess he has my thanks.


Just now we had a bit of a kerfuffle with telemetry being enabled in the most popular Lua language server[0].

I can't argue with the specific usecase presented in that GitHub issue, I'm going to keep telemetry enabled. But if you argue that vendors "usually won't be inserting spyware", in the face of evidence like free software products seeing value in phoning home with telemetry data, I think I have the moral right to reject your argument in full.

https://github.com/sumneko/lua-language-server/issues/462


You can’t reject his argument in full because you’re already biting back at the wrong argument. OP isn’t saying that free, open-source software is untarnished by and incapable of crimes against consumer privacy, but the fact that it is FOSS allows concerned members of the public to inspect it so, whereas proprietary software does not. How do you reckon you are able to know of the very example that you cited, for instance?


I think you and runiq are in violent agreement :)


I think we should separate telemetry from spyware. It is not close the same. We all have telemetry is our cars, yet nobody is making any fuss about it. Even in software engineering profiling database queries or active memory is not something anew and I don't recall we had any problems with that.


I'd argue that if the telemetry is opt-out rather than opt-in it has (just _barely_) crossed the border into spyware. Sure it may not be tracking anything more than usage data, but I'd rather see a pop-up/dialog saying, "we'd like to track X, Y, and Z - we'll be using Q to identify your data. Is that okay?" And make a choice than to have that choice made for me.


What is with this idea that software has some interactive install process where I would want to be asked questions every time? Blast from the oughts! If you have to ask, the answer is 'no'.

Your software is either trustworthy, part of that being that it doesn't perform surveillance on me, another part being that it installs through well-known automation (apt, nix, etc). Or it will never become part of my trusted computing base (yes, that term is another blast from the past).

If I am forced to use it, it will end up in some isolated VM or throwaway tablet, with the minimum of access required for the functionality I need. I will consider it a second class citizen and generally deprecate it as much as possible (eg for communication apps, work to move the conversation to a different medium).


Nothing saying it can't be in a config file. Really all I care about is opt-in over opt-out.


...do we all have telemetry in our cars, really? I mean, we have data that can be read via ODBII, but it's not exactly connecting via the cell network, it has to be retrieved with a plug.

I can't think of anyone I know who has a car that needs to phone home. But that's a very limited sample size, so you know. Also, I'm most likely in a different market to you, we've never had anything like OnStar make inroads here into domestic vehicles - some commercial operators are using telemetry on their trucks etc.

But rest assured, if all our cars were phoning home, I'd be making a massive fuss.

For example, an insurance company in my country has recently launched an app that will "measure" your driving and offer lower premiums if your driving is "safe" according to their algorithms. It's obviously opt-in, but at some point, the difference between a discount for opting in, and a penalty for opting out, becomes hard to differentiate.

You don't have any rights to review their algorithms if you feel that they got it wrong, it's a combination of Hail Corporate and Hail AI, and context is lost because it's impossible to capture that. E.g., does heavy braking indicate you were driving poorly, or did you encounter a situation where heavy braking was necessary, such as the damn cat down the road that thinks it's invincible deciding to make a sprint for it in front of you? Is acceleration in excess of their defined limit unsafe? Or were you accelerating more than you normally would, because someone gave you space to turn into the road and you didn't want to needlessly hold them up, given their courtesy?

And given what I've seen of the FAANG algorithms, I don't want algorithms from companies nowhere near FAANG level making decisions about me. A personal favourite of mine was FB removing a comment of mine, because my sister said she'd totally marry my wife, on account of how, well, pretty damn awesome my wife is, and I'd replied "Haha, I'll fight you" - and FB had flagged that as "hate speech/incitement to violence".

Anyway, thank you for coming to my TED rant.


> I can't think of anyone I know who has a car that needs to phone home.

You don’t know anyone with a Tesla? https://www.tesla.com/support/connectivity

Or a Honda? https://hondalink.honda.com/#/

Or a Bmw? https://connecteddrive.bmwusa.com/app/index.html#/portal

Or a Toyota? https://www.supraconnect.com/app/index.html#/portal

You don’t know anyone with a Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep or Ram brand vehicle? https://www.driveuconnect.com/

You didn’t hear about the remote control vulnerability 6 years ago? Chrysler recalled their entire fleet to fix it. https://www.wired.com/2015/07/hackers-remotely-kill-jeep-hig...


No, I don't know anyone with a Tesla. I do know people with Hondas, Beamers, Nissan Leafs, and I own two Toyotas and a Mazda.

Definitely no Chryslers, Dodges, Fiats, or Rams. They are very limited in market reach indeed in NZ, unless we're talking vintage cars, then there's a few more.

I also had the, ahem, "privilege" of owning a GM built "Toyota" previously[1]. It was... shall we say, a cacophony of interesting and bemusing engineering choices - the boot/trunk lid was incredibly heavy, yet the latch mechanism was made entirely of plastic, and to turn on the interior lights, you had to turn the dashboard brightness dial all the way up, and then a bit more, and then the interior lights would turn on. Only took me 3 months to figure that out. Admittedly, was handy for turning on the interior lights without looking away while driving, but was not at all intuitive.

Oh, I do know someone with a couple of Jeeps though, the poor bastards.

I guess you could rephrase my statement as "I don't know anyone with a car built after 2016", although as far as I can tell in NZ, Toyotas, at least, ship with telematics as an option for fleet management, rather than a default.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chevrolet_Cavalier#Toyota_Cava...


I guess I've lost track of your point. You were trying to suggest cars don't phone home, based on your experience and assumptions, but the fact is that nearly all major manufacturers are selling cars today with systems that phone home for various reasons, whether you're aware of it or not. How does you not knowing anyone with new cars meaningfully inform this thread? The manufacturers are becoming aware of privacy issues, and trying to make some kinds of collection and access opt-in, but basically all of them now offer some services that phone home by default and are opt-out or not optional. Hopefully that data is reasonable and private and protected... hopefully.

A lot of consumers (I would guess most) prefer to have default-on connectivity to provide services like theft protection, automatic emergency support in case of accidents, and up-to-date navigation maps, among many other modern conveniences.


"I can't think of anyone I know who has a car that needs to phone home. "

As others point out, it's almost impossible to get a new car these days that isn't connected. Anything in the last five years in particular. It's pretty disgusting and one of the reasons I'm in no hurry to own anything new. I have a '97, '02 and '10 and they all work quite well for me and I intend to run them into the ground. And if I'm diligent they should last me until I am no longer fit to drive.


Yeah, I think that's more likely the case - I don't know anyone with a car younger than 2016. My three vehicles are 2005, 2006 and 2008, and they're all sauntering along with nearly 300,000 km on them each. God bless Japanese engineering.

In NZ we tend to buy used Japanese imports because they're so damn cheap (IIRC, Japan has very strict rules about the age of a car for pollution control purposes, so they get shipped off to Australia and us after hitting that age limit, and we don't charge tariffs, unlike the Aussies), most people here would be lucky to buy a new car once or twice in their life.

Unless you go the usual route and start a building company, tick up a new Ford Ranger on the company's credit, transfer ownership to your spouse/partner, and then go into liquidation leaving behind devastated people who were trying to build their first home - and subcontractors who really need the $12k you owe them.


In future, we are gonna have a blast. Some lucky ones already are. :) /s

Cars Have Your Location. This Spy Firm Wants to Sell It to the U.S. Military:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26492322

One company wants to sell the feds location data from every car on Earth:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26511649

Military Unit Conducting Drone Strikes Bought Location Data from Ordinary Apps:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26367747


> ...do we all have telemetry in our cars, really? I mean, we have data that can be read via ODBII, but it's not exactly connecting via the cell network, it has to be retrieved with a plug.

Nissans do, my Leaf does. They connect to a mobile network or WiFi and upload data.

https://www.nissan.co.uk/ownership/nissan-infotainment-syste...


Yup. My Nissan gives me a monthly nag screen to accept terms in order to use my navigation map and audio system. The car has its own 4G connection (I don’t pay anything, it’s not usable to me) in order to download traffic data, send telemetry home, and I believe SiriusXM radio.


I'm currently imagining a nightmare scenario where those gas station tv ads are playing inside of the car. I sincerely hope that day never comes.


> gas station tv ads

I've been driving EVs for the past 10 years (LEAF -> Model X -> I-PACE) during which time I haven't used a gas pump. After reading your comment I had to go searching for this thing about ads playing while you're filling up. I found this Reddit post about being forced to watch ads before being allowed to even start the pump!

https://www.reddit.com/r/assholedesign/comments/819tcf/forci...

Oh. My. God. I'm disappointed. Not surprised. But disappointed.

> playing inside of the car

Yeah, that's definitely going at the top of my list of car "misfeatures" that would make me run screaming to another brand.


Speed = 0, Display Ad = True?

Goddamn, I don't want this post to be a screenshot for someone to point out that we can see the future.


Speed=0,Fuel_Cap=OFF,Display_Ad=True. - well, if anyone is going to get it first, its those Tesla owners lol.


I was thinking more of running the ad at a red light but yeah...


Yeah, I'm unsurprised a Leaf does. I also remember that Nissan had a security hole back in 2016 that meant that a bad actor could drain your Leaf's battery with only a VIN.

It's definitely the way the industry wants to go - I mean, free data, why not? Bit like the FAANGs, dress up the data collection with some features people want.

Might just be a case that no-one I know owns a late model car :D We're big on older Japanese imports in NZ, god bless our lack of tariffs. Although RIP our local car manufacturing industry, god bless neoliberalism.


We all have telemetry is our cars, yet nobody is making any fuss about it.

That is very much not true, on both counts.

There is a lot of nuance in this area.

Monitoring how well your own systems are working and how they're being used is one thing. It's obviously reasonable and necessary for a variety of practical reasons.

Monitoring how someone else's systems are being used, even if they happen to be running some of your software or incorporate some equipment you made, is something else. If you're no longer responsible for those systems and ownership has been handed over, including remote access or phone-home functionality means crossing some lines that maybe shouldn't be crossed, particularly not without the full knowledge and genuine consent of the person whose system you are communicating with.


> We all have telemetry is our cars, yet nobody is making any fuss about it

This is like saying nobody cared about mass surveillance before Snowden. The problem is apparent, but the realization isn't evenly distributed.

The only difference between this Lua server and other Software Augmented with Additional Surveillance (SaaS) is your trust. You apparently trust them to not sell the data trove to a surveillance company (or to a VC who eventually will), but I see no reason to. Heck, I've been answering no to popcon for over a decade now, even though Debian is outstandingly trustworthy.

Even Backblaze, a company whose core product is securely storing your data, just recently suffered from an in house attack - apparently their security team didn't foresee the need to protect against javascript injection by their own marketing stooges. When data is there for the taking, most people cannot restrain themselves - the problem is endemic. The only solution is to assure the privacy of data, through means such as Free software, E2E encryption, and not collecting it in the first place.


> We all have telemetry is our cars, yet nobody is making any fuss about it.

I sure as hell am making a fuss about it, which is exactly why I drive a car that's old enough to vote (and pretty soon will be old enough to drink, smoke, and/or buy a handgun in California).


You need to address the author’s points though: if you agree that spyware is a problem that impinges on user freedom, what agenda should we advance to solve it? is advocating for copyleft licensing actually helping? Do you really believe that a world where everyone only used GPL software would be free of spyware?


> Do you really believe that a world where everyone only used GPL software would be free of spyware?

There is no need to believe. Just have a look at F-Droid and GNU/Linux repositories.


I don't get your point, but I'm pretty sure that several GNU/Linux repos contain the version of Unity that pinged Amazon's servers to name an example.

Where do you draw the line between spyware and legitimate feature?

Where do you draw the line between malware and unintentional faulty code?

Review time is a scarce resource, and a bad actor will always find a way to bypass automated checks.


We should really pay for open-source. The FSF has a page saying it’s correct to charge before delivering OSS software (and the user can redistribute the software with OSS license).

We could charge access to Debian repositories for example. For example one repo could have bugfixes, and the broader audience could have a 1-year-old repo. Sure your can build from source, get a zip from a torrent, or find someone who hosts a free mirror of the paid repo, but as a company it’s much easier to get it from the official source, for security compliance. (Btw I’ve always said I’d be happy to spend $200 per year per employee for a desktop OS of macOS quality, so probably much less for our servers).

This would offer price discrimination: - Free for individuals who want to spin off a small website, - Paid when you need to prove compliance to security regulations, - Developments still go to the pool of mankind’s marvels, instead of being locked with a commercial license and dying with the company, - Customer can still fork or fix a bug themselves by building from source.


I agree with your point that we should look for a way to pay FOSS maintainers for their time, but my point was that Linux repos are not free of spyware naming the version of Unity that sent what you typed to Amazon Shopping as an example.

The line that separates legitimate features and spyware is blurry, especially when a bad default ends up leaking information of the user.


It is enough for one person to notice something strange about a program and it is really easy to fork/revert back to a version with only the needed functionality if source is available. Of course the given bad faith actor responsible for the mischief will be “punished” and will be banned from contribution.

With the apparent lack of both viruses and telemetry and the like in libre software even with the laughable default security of linux distros (your home containing basically everything free to read/modify for any user app), I would say that FOSS has quite a good track record in this metric. Nonetheless, a stronger security should be developed/strived for because it still boils down to a trust based system, but it makes me happy that the default of most people is to not cause harm.


> I'm pretty sure that several GNU/Linux repos contain the version of Unity that pinged Amazon's servers to name an example.

FLOSS does not prevent malware from existing, but it makes it highly unprobable. You can always find bad examples, but how frequent are they?


Customization is what GPL ensures. You install and run reviewed code.


That Linux doesn’t itself contain any spyware doesn’t tell me how, in a world where everyone runs Linux, magically spyware would disappear.

Android is built on Linux. Android-based TVs and phones are sold to consumers every day with spyware preinstalled.

So we have broad adoption of GPL software. Spyware is still happening. What’s the next step?


You can't lump all GPL licenced software into one bucket. GPL <=2 is quite different to GPL 3. Which is why GPL 3 is anathema to many commercial companies.

I can pretty much guarantee that none of those "smart" TVs are running GPLv3 code.

Hehe, and then there's the Affero licence... https://opensource.google/docs/using/agpl-policy/


To be pedantic, Android is under Apache[1] license, not GPL. And the apps you install in Android are (and can be) closed source (most of them).

The hypothetical scenario you describe is the one where you build Linux from scratch and you find a spyware. And this, AFAIK, is not happening right now, and one of the reasons is because it's open source and you can build it from the source code.

[1]: https://source.android.com/setup/start/licenses


Android incorporates a patched GPLv2 Linux kernel, and a stack of other stuff on top of it which includes GPL, LGPL and Apache and other licenses.

And a typical android distribution - eg the one installed on a TV - includes a bunch of other software too.

And the hypothetical scenario I want is where I buy a TV and it doesn’t contain spyware. It seems that the existence of Linux has, if anything, made that less possible, given that any old hardware company can grab a Linux kernel and shove whatever spyware they want on top of it before selling it to me.


> Android incorporates a patched GPLv2 Linux kernel.

This has nothing to do with "So we have broad adoption of GPL software". Android (AOSP) is Apache. We don't have "broad adoption of GPL software". This scenario doesn't exist.

If the software of the TV is GPLv2, you must have access to the source code (even with Apache this can happen to some extent). The TV manufacturer must give you the source code of the software running on the TV (with GPLv3 they should also guarantee that you can re-flash your devices). This of course is an ideal world, and it's the freedom FSF searches for.

This way, you (or someone else) can audit the source code and check for spywares. You might be able to rebuild and reflash the software.

Unfortunately not everything is open source. On Linux you have (for example) NVIDIA drivers that are closed source. You can put a spyware in there, even if Linux is GPLv2.

EDIT: btw, you first asked "What’s the next step?". I believe the next step is to raise awareness of the rights one has over GPLvX software and to be able to truly enforce those rights. Like if you ask Samsung for the source code of your TV and they don't give it to you, you can (like) go to the nearest police station and press charges.


...if the Linux kernel was under GPLv3 though, that wouldn't be as easy for them.

I haven't quite grokked why Linus decided GPLv3 was bad, but he strikes me as a pragmatist vs. the FSF idealists.


As far as I understood (maybe it was/is on groklaw.net somewhere), Linus didn't care as much about the users. His main concern is the developers, so he doesn't mind the users being tivoized out of their ability to run adapted code.


Not so long ago GPLv2 was anathema for corporations, but now they love it due to linux. What's left now is to gradually roll out GPLv3. It's embrace and extend tactics of sorts.


Corporations love GPLv2 because they get free code, not because of Linux.


Linus cares about his users (GPLv2). RMS cares about all the users (GPLv3).

Linux just wants anyone who changes the code to contribute back. He doesn't care how they exploit the software he gives them.


It’s like arguing that buying quality ingredients for a meal, and fking up the cooking is somehow the mistake of that expensive Italian pasta.

Also, you seriously argue that availability of a great kernel is somehow a bad thing??


> Android is built on Linux. Android-based TVs and phones are sold to consumers every day with spyware preinstalled.

Android is built on GPLv2 Linux. GPLv2 does not protect the user against locked down hardware and firmware. In contrast, GPLv3+ does protect the user. The user does not have the freedom to modify their software on their hardware, so there is much less freedom.


Don’t straw man. The comment you’re replying to is referring to using free software exclusively. If you avoid all non-free software, including services that don’t share their source code, then you will not have to deal with any adware or spyware at all if you don’t wish to.

You’re really just supporting the FSF’s arguments against non-free software.


But plot that path out for me. Explain to me how you make a world where the average consumer has access to a spyware free phone and TV because of free software. What societal or legislative or cultural levers do you plan to pull to bring about that utopia? Is the FSF pulling them?


Who will fund this entirely free stack you are talking about?


No magic is needed. In a world where everything is free software, almost no spyware would happen. And the "almost" is because nobody can watch everything every time. But the most used software will be thoroughly reviewed.


But we don’t live in that world yet. We live in a world where, on the contrary, companies are able to make products that distribute their spyware and do so by actively exploiting the contributions of free software developers! The Linux devs whose contributions are in android are having their software used to build TVs that spy on people! Is free software advocacy alone actually helping advance a spyware-free world, then?


No, the eventual goal of the FSF (and Stallman himself) is to make all software free. You cannot achieve this goal at once, you need to make part of the software free first.


Those repositories are used by a very small minority of users, which are also highly competent and constantly looking out for scatchy things. Yet, those scatchy things do happen occasionally on small scale be.

But it's kinda obvious that the lack ob a big and serious actor is the main reason why nothing seriously bad ever happend in linux-land so far. Everyone switching to Open Source would change this and the watchmen would likely be unable to protect their world.

I mean just look at the mildly bad things happening on mainstream-systems, which everyone knows about and still ignores them, because "that's just how it is". At the end people willingly use bad software & services, because their subjective gain is higher than the small price they pay.


It doesn't systematically free people of spywares but allows to do so. Projects already get forked for that purpose like vscode, chromium. It also allows to audit and at least see what a software does.


vscodium


> In the GPLv3 (and it was there in GPLv2 and v1) clauses 15 and 16 are the Disclaimer of Warranty and the Limitation of Liability. To be fair, proprietary software licenses have the same clauses, but the free-softers cannot claim the moral high ground here. These licenses assert that if the software causes any harm, the people who wrote it aren’t liable (limitation of liability).

This is an inane argument. Limiting your liability isn't some kind of moral evil. The potential for harm due to defects always exists, and if you provide a good or service to someone, you have to negotiate with that person who will accept the liability for it.

Generic software licenses limit liability because it's usually much cheaper for the end user to assume the liability as they have far greater knowledge of their practical risks.

A developer can absolutely make an agreement in which he takes on the liability. He's going to need to be paid to take that liability on, to both spend the time to eliminate defects, but also to purchase insurance so that he isn't bankrupted when a defect inevitably gets through and causes harm.


> A developer can absolutely make an agreement in which he takes on the liability. He's going to need to be paid to take that liability on, to both spend the time to eliminate defects, but also to purchase insurance so that he isn't bankrupted when a defect inevitably gets through and causes harm.

Hmm... I hadn't though about the implications of this before. Is this a solution to the mythical funding balance the industry is failing to achieve? Enterprise software already operates like this. What if e.g. github reframed its project sponsorship model as something that involved getting maintainers setup with liability insurance and the ability to offer sponsors warranty and liability for their software.

My concern with the rust ecosystem right now is that it goes the way of node and projects just get littered with endless libraries that were fresh and hot at one point in time. Often times you open issues and it takes days or weeks to get a response if at all because the maintainers have moved on.

I'd be super interested in only using dependencies where I could subscribe to liability and warranty service after I've tried them out and they're want I'm going to roll with. And you would even potentially see interesting things like "pure" chains where all software used is covered by somebody.

This model would also have the interesting effect of promoting software design and language selection that results in "easier to warrant" not just "does the job" and maintainers that do a better job at writing good software would bubble to the top since their liability insurance premiums would stay cheap. If you write too much crappy software, at some point it becomes unaffordable and you go work for Facebook (it's a joke! you get the point).


> What if e.g. github reframed its project sponsorship model as something that involved getting maintainers setup with liability insurance and the ability to offer sponsors warranty and liability for their software.

I think it would be much more expensive. The developers of some library are having a hard time judging how much money somebody stakes on that library working perfectly. It might be that they'd lose an hour of work if they hit a bug, it might also be that a huge project fails with gigantic losses - it's hard to insure against that if you still want people to be able to afford it.

It's much easier to buy insurance on the user side where you know the potential impact (i.e. "my wordpress site will be offline for a day" vs "the oil rig I've run calculations for could sink if there was a bug").


Scaling the payment with the importance of the software is already how enterprise software largely works. Often times customers actively want to pay more for software so they can secure more attention from the vendor, if the software is critical to their business.


It's not only about a legit project failing with gigantic losses. A blanket liability insurance would also raise hordes of liability insurance trolls. I.e. organized efforts to collect insurance payments by claiming damage caused by the use of the software.


This just sounds like any mature industry.


> Is this a solution to the mythical funding balance the industry is failing to achieve?

For single projects this is definitely possible, at least theoretically. But I can't imagine it working for large ecosystems.


Who even wants this? No one wants this.

The ones who want this already have it through SLAs and the remainder can't afford it.


Indeed. Nothing would kill free software (and modern development in general!) quicker than mandatory liability.

Package registries would shut down overnight.


Probably the reason the author supports it.


yes. and to add to this, the fitness for use in some safety critical system, and we talk about functional safety here, is strictly regulated. functional safety requires process discipline at the system level, evidence based engineering and evidences for soundness of scrutiny, at the system level and then down to the components.

in that light it is a moral obligation to remind consumers of the technology about their obligations. The legalese may sound just evasive, and motivated by the us environment of litigations by stupid people, but seriously: fitness for use is am obligation of the systems engineer, not the provider of FOSS.

elisa.tech is a community to enable Linux in safety applications. even there, the responsibility is with the consumer of their work, they also just seek methods and inputs for system safety engineering, which, when used by a system safety engineer may lead to a certifiable, and then liability covered device. like an adas system powered by Linux.


> the responsibility is with the consumer of their work

This would also apply to the problem of web search and social network monopolies. The way I see it: let Google and FB develop or host a plurality of ranking, filtering and UI variants, and let the users decide their preferred flavor. Then they can't complain about bias. There would be a Republican Google and a Democrat Google and a EFF Google and a BLM Google to pick from. They are now like single TV channels with unified editorial stance, they should be more like cable networks. Give people the remote for content ranking, filtering and UI.


my google search results should be different from yours already, no? likewise our FB streams...

and you choose your profile not via drop down but with your engagement with and liking and disliking of content?


That's the craziest bit of the whole article.


What a hugely misinformed, but well coordinated, direct attack. Just look at the timing and how many of them came after RMS was reappointed to the FSF board of directors. The message behind this guy's article has nothing to do with his views about Free Software; it's rather "Ditch RMS for good or we'll submerge the FSF under a pile of mud".


The same thought came to my mind when I saw the headline and the intentions became clear once I read it.

Lots of indirect attacks on "free software" once RMS is back on the board. I honestly don't understand it - lot of people talking about "leadership" and free software "losing" against open source. The proponents of free software have absolutely no desire to win against anybody nor does it need any kind of leadership to make it attractive for corporates or any other group of people. We just believe that users of software should have certain freedoms and try and use software which respects these.

In HN particularly, I often see the argument that GPL restricts freedoms of certain kinds of users i.e. the developers. We honestly don't care - if you don't like free software, please use open source and celebrate that you have "won" against us.


What about people that love free software, but are appalled that RMS was reappointed to the board. Where should we go?


No need to "go" anywhere - thanks to RMS, you have got the freedoms promised available to you like any other user. If you don't like him, your freedom allows you to do what you want with the software (as long as you respect the terms of the license).


> What about people that love free software, but are appalled that RMS was reappointed to the board. Where should we go?

Why do you have to go anywhere? If all the evidence you have against someone is "they expressed an opinion I didn't like" I suggest, then, the problem isn't them.


But the FSF's raison d'être is to have an opinion.

It's a strongly principled organization that exists to advocate for the things it believes.

In the context of someone joining a board of an organization like that, their expressed opinions absolutely matter.


> But the FSF's raison d'être is to have an opinion.

Sure, but not an opinion on every issue in the world - their mission has always been to promote the user's freedom to use and modify software as the user sees fit. Other issues, whether important or not, may not be relevant to preserving software freedoms.

> It's a strongly principled organization that exists to advocate for the things it believes.

Correct, so why is everyone up in arms when they are refusing to advocate for things that are not of interest to them?

> In the context of someone joining a board of an organization like that, their expressed opinions absolutely matter.

Only as far as the organisation's mission statement. I would be (rightly) kicked out of my organisation should I publicly mobilise a mob against my employer for the company's lack of interest in abused puppies at the SPCA.

People disagreeing with RMS's expressed opinions on (for example) what constitutes a legal age of consent disqualify themselves as leadership material for an organisation committed to software freedoms.

The people who support software freedoms know where to go to get lectures on legal age of consent should they want to hear it. Injecting unrelated political ideology into a group committed to software freedoms is as welcome as posting SPAM for ED to a mailing list for cryptography.


> Correct, so why is everyone up in arms when they are refusing to advocate for things that are not of interest to them?

“Everyone” is not.

Of the people up in arms, some (including at least one FSF board member who resigned, and many individuals and entities that contribute—or did until recently—to the FSF and it's projects) are part of the “they” and clearly so have an interest.

And others are just on the outside advocating for things they care about, just as vociferously as FSF partisans do (and no more—though also no less—annoyingly to people who aren't concerned about the same issues.)


What a juvenile argument. I couldn't care less about Stallman, he can express whatever he likes. But the consequences of that are that he and the FSF are now a detriment to the free software movement.


Way I remember it, mathematics has accepted contributions from any walks of life over its history. “Mathematics is so beautiful to transcend whole societies and be for the ages.” Or something. More practically, mathematics is just so hard that people who are willing to spend significant time with it are rare. People who find significant mathematical ideas are very much more rare. For these reasons, it’s a practical thing to accept mathematical contributions from anyone regardless of their other proclivities.

Writing good software is hard. I’d recon it’s similar to mathematics in difficulty often. It’s worth it to consider someone can both be awful in other factors of their life but still make meaningful contributions to society through things like math or software. It helps that he’s always willing to show you his code for audit purposes.


Also, I’d add that a feeling of having contributed something meaningful to the world is something like a basic human need. You won’t die if you’re fed, sheltered, and have access to clean water. But if that’s literally all you do in a day you will soon be fiddling for something to do.

So instead of rushing to exclude people from society, society needs to provide people enough room to be themselves to keep from dangerous fiddling.

Further, forgiveness is a more critical tool to the forgiver than the forgiven. To forgive a grievance isn’t to forget it. It’s to put an end to the part of your resources devoted to punishing your opponent or thinking ill. That frees up those resources for more positive uses. The forgiven never needed to expend resources to earn your forgiveness and thus doesn’t have the same resource commitments - hence forgiveness offers less to the forgiven than the forgiver.


In this situation forgiveness has has offered a board seat to the forgiven, which is something of considerable value.


I can confidently say I've devoted zero resources to punishing Stallman, other than a few comments on this thread. Yet his benefit from the board's forgiveness is quite clearly large.

There's a big difference between excluding someone from society or even contributing to a project, and appointing them to the board.


The reason that mathematical contributions are accepted from anyone regardless of other proclivities, is not because the people who find significant mathematical ideas are very rare. While that is true, the reason that their contributions are accepted is that it doesn't matter who the person is, or what they do, or anything. It only matters if what they came up with is true.

To reject a completely correct mathematical concept because it was contributed by an awful person--even the worst person in history--would be madness, and any attempts to suppress or disenfranchise the work of "inconvenient contributors" indicates that you're not actually pursuing mathematics, but engaging in political warfare.


And sufficiently fulfilling a software requirement is like being mathematically correct if not actually correct.

But I fear you’re being over constrained by this specification. My larger point is it’s important, very, to not draw too many lines and wind up with a “polite party” of 0.


> And sufficiently fulfilling a software requirement is like being mathematically correct if not actually correct.

Absolutely.

> But I fear you’re being over constrained by this specification. My larger point is it’s important, very, to not draw too many lines and wind up with a “polite party” of 0.

I'm not sure I understand where we disagree. Or I'm missing what you are getting at with this paragraph, my apologies. I think contributions to mathematics should be open to anyone, everyone, and everything.


The FSF isn’t a mathematical enterprise dropping out nuggets of code whose value is unquestionable, like pure mathematical truths - it’s a lobbying organization. And for a lobbying organization both 1) credibility and 2) having supportable goals matter.

If you believe there is value in campaigning for increased freedom for users of software, then you might benefit from the FSF having concrete campaign goals and the ability to be taken seriously.

Inviting RMS back to the board does not help them in that regard.

Your ability to benefit from the software produced by RMS has no dependency on his being elevated to a seat on the board of an organization whose opinion might be sought, say, if congress were debating laws mandating access to source code of voting machines.


Something I learned. Try to hold the opposing thoughts and feelings in your head together at the same time. Hold gratitude at RMS for founding the FSF and all that has come from that, along with whatever anger you have at his other opinions. Meditate on that conflict. Try to accept that these come from the same person. I've found this to be an effective way to overcome splitting (psychology reference, good concept with poor examples about mommy IMHO).


RMS will always be the founder of the FSF. Nobody can take that away from him. He should mint a commemorative NFT.

But that doesn’t entitle him to a seat on the board for all time regardless of how his presence there might affect how the FSF is perceived.

There’s no conflict there at all. That the FSF lacks the imagination to conceive of a way forward without RMS on the board definitely supports the OP argument that free software has a leadership development problem and lacks a vision of any path forward that will tangibly advance ‘freedom’ for software users.


I can be happy that the FSF exists, admire a number of the goals RMS has strived towards, and still be aghast and horrified by RMS's lack of personal boundaries[1], lack of respect for women[1], and specific pieces of writing that lived on his site for decades that were in favour of child abuse.

I'm not sure how meditating on it is supposed to negate the latter. Nor how that is supposed to provide a space in which software is free of the shackles of the misogyny of the popular.

[1]: Literally just listen to the women who have had to work along side him on the MIT campus for decades. The fact that it was a known fact in the whisper network on campus and that they had developed tactics for "dealing with it" shows you pretty much everything you need to know.


>> Literally just listen to the women who have had to work along side him on the MIT campus for decades.

I would like to listen to what they have to say. This is the first I'm hearing of this, and I've been following RMS and the FSF since their inception. The term "dealing with it" is too vague - are we talking sexual assault, sexual harassment, or RMS being difficult to work with? These are dramatically different scenarios yet they all require a means for "dealing with it."

I'm taking you to task because you're now crossing the line from things RMS has said to things he may have done. If you're going to accuse RMS of sexual harassment then you're going to need to help bring this to light, not just spread hearsay. His alleged victims deserve that and the free software community needs to know the details of any alleged misconduct.


>> I'm not sure how meditating on it is supposed to negate the latter.

That's because you haven't tried. You're biased in ways you don't see. I'm not pointing a finger or trying criticize here. You seem to have a lot of anger - figure out where that comes from.


> You're biased in ways you don't see

I'm biased against inappropriate conduct towards people and a lack of respect for other people.

I'm not even angry about this, just deeply disappointed in the FSF and their decision to put one man above the voices of countless people who he has repeatedly acted inappropriately towards and has neither acknowledged nor attempted to improve his behaviour.


> put one man above the voices of countless people

In other words, they chose to resist the cancel culture, stick to what they believe is right instead of appeasing an angry mob, and ignore the obviously ill-intended mischaracterizations spreading over the social media.

I'd say they did a good job.

A good read, referenced on Wikipedia: https://www.wetheweb.org/post/cancel-we-the-web

"Acting inappropriately" is not a crime. If you dislike his behavior, don't come near him - you're free to do so. Trying to force your way of thinking on him, instead, is wrong. The fact that he used to ask random women to have sex with him (actually, to "go out with him") does not make him misogynist. The fact that he said that "14 and above" people should be able to have sex if they want, and that "abstaining from sex after puberty is unnatural" does not make him a pedophile. The fact that he questions the use of "sexual assault" phrase in a situation where the "assaulted" person "appears entirely willing" does not make him a rapist.

You might not like his "inappropriate conduct" and that's ok. He, on the other hand, might not like your standards of what is appropriate or not, and that's also ok. I, for one, don't like the hypocrisy and puritanism you seem to espouse. I wouldn't want to be your friend, what with having to worry about my "conduct" constantly. But that's ok, I don't have to be your friend. It's all good. At least until you start forcing your (to me - misguided) values on others, start forming a mob with the intention of lynching him (or me), and try to shame all the people with contrary views into silence.


> I wouldn't want to be your friend, what with having to worry about my "conduct" constantly.

It's about consent. You do not do things to someone, without someone else's consent. An example: If you repeatedly prod me, and I ask you to stop, and you carry on going -- that makes you the asshole. That I asked you to stop, and you ignored me, does not put the blame on me.

You claim he is not a misogynist. The fact that he makes women, in general, uncomfortable by repeatedly making unwanted and unwarranted passes at them constantly -- to the point at which almost all of the women who had to deal with him bought specific plants just to deter him, shows that he is not fit to lead a movement. Because he does not listen to others when they ask him to stop disrespecting their boundaries.

The fact that, when he was asked to stop soliciting women for sex, that he circumvented these rules by passing out cards that asked for sex, shows he fundamentally misunderstands the reason he was asked to stop. That he fundamentally does not understand, or has no will to understand, accept and more importantly respect the personal boundaries of the people -- more often than not women -- around him.

It's not like he was never given any warning. People asked him to stop making the women around him deeply uncomfortable, repeatedly, and he repeatedly refused to listen. At this point, 20 to 40 years later, this is a pattern of abuse.

If this happened at a workplace, they would fire you. If this happened anywhere in society, they would remove you. The FSF did exactly that because people exercised their free speech to say no more to this.

When you constantly, repeatedly act like an asshole in public, and show no respect for the boundaries and space of other people, that will make people very understandably irritated, even angry if it happens constantly. We even have a legal definition for this enshrined in our law -- harassment -- to account for the fact that doing something to another person, or a group of people, without their consent, is psychologically and physically damaging to their health.

That is why he is not fit to lead a movement. That is why people are irate and angered by the refusal of people to listen to the voices of others.


> pieces of writing that lived on his site for decades that were in favour of child abuse.

Come on, that is very hard to believe.


Literally just look at the citations from the Ars Technica article. Which link to Stallman's own writing.


Not sure which Ars Technica article. Please give a link and citation and explain why that shows Stallman is in favour of child abuse. I don't think you will be able to do that.


> and specific pieces of writing that lived on his site for decades that were in favour of child abuse.

He wrote that 14+ teens should be able to engage in sexual acts for fun, if they want. It's incredibly damning, right? And it's advocating child abuse.

Meanwhile, billions of people live in jurisdictions where 12 year olds get routinely married to 3-4 times older people. But, it's Stallman with his benign and - in the civilized world - quite obvious claims that is so wrong that he should never again take part in public discourse!

I can't, for the life of me, understand what's so wrong with people helping each other to orgasm. What's so damaging to the psyche in engaging in consensual sexual acts. Yes, people who didn't yet reach physiological sexual maturity should be protected, and obviously using any kind of force to elicit consent should be punished. Other than that? It's just sex - one of the healthier ways of feeling good. There are cultures where sex has been treated as a normal activity for adolescents for literally tens of thousands of years, where it only became a problem after colonial rule started enforcing taboos and rules alien to the indigenous peoples.

Well, it has nothing to do with this discussion, so I'll end the rant here. My main point is that the twisted view of all sexual activity of young people as "child abuse" is wrong, as is using advocacy for the opposite (ie. treating sex as normal activity; this comment included) to discredit people. Please, try to rethink your stance on the matter. Or alternatively, point me to a quote which actually is "in favour of child abuse". I feel silly writing this, but I think I have to: actual, real child abuse is also, of course, wrong.


Do you need to "be somewhere" to put your software under GPL ? I have missed the memo.


I'll continue to put my software under the GPL until I'm convinced a different license would be better. But along with many others I certainly won't be contributing to an FSF project.


I mean, sure, but the FSF / GNU projects are a very small drop in a very large bucket of GPL / free software projects anyways.


Agreed. I thank them for their license, but they're largely and increasingly irrelevant nowadays. Which is a shame, under better leadership they could effect more positive change on the world.


>Where should we go?

If you're so disgusted by RMS that you refuse to use any of his software, I'd suggest therapy.


So much projection in so few words. I use plenty of GNU software and will continue to do so. I just believe neither he nor the FSF are fit for purpose, and the free software community is better led by others


"but are appalled that RMS was reappointed to the board"

That's the problem. RMS did never harass a woman in his entire life; he may have expressed comments that today, especially in the post #metoo era, appear as inconvenient, but that's it; does he deserve to be painted like he was a sexual assaulter (which he is not, has never been, not even close) by multiple sides at the same time? Why all that negative press? Doesn't this raise some warning flags?

The reason looks very clear to me: he is stubbornly inflexible in his concept of what Free Software means, which is an extremely good thing; he kept the helm straight no matter the external pressure to stop, where others would have sold themselves and the community for 30 pieces of silver. There are huge interests in "killing" him publicly, which would mean destroying the Free Software movement, sell out the Foundation and giving full powers to whomever has to gain big money from that. Just follow the money trail.


RMS never harassed women? Have you spent any time around MIT or other RMS haunts? Dude was well established as a serial harasser. When I was a grad student in 2002 it was common knowledge that he was afraid of spider plants and many women at LCS had spider plants in their offices to keep him away.


As someone who is fat and socially awkward, I am generally greeted with scorn if I smile at an attractive woman. But that does not mean I want to harass or assault them. It does not also mean I don’t have the right to smile - if you are uncomfortable with my smile, the problem is with you, not me.


I couldn’t agree more! If we’re not careful we could have anyone unattractive being chronically labeled a harasser for innocuous social behavior. I’ve experienced it myself. I don’t want to live in a world where simply being unattractive makes someone less than human. That’s clearly a form of violent prejudice.


The allegations aren't smiling, it was asking women to have sex (including parading a bed in his office) repeatedly, in an academic environment. That's a bit more. Then there was the email sent to the CSAIL mailing list that talked about how one shouldn't assume a minor (that was provided by epstein) wasn't willing to have sex.


> Asking women to have sex

Not one women including the "evidence" gathered in the original Medium posts mention that. Actual examples they do mention are quite common for socially inept individuals.

> Parading a bed

For a long time, Stallman lived in his office. I have known other academics who preferred to do the same. Again, not one person has come forward and said that Stallman ever invited them to that bed.

> how one shouldn't assume a minor (that was provided by epstein) wasn't willing to have sex

He did not say that at all. Re-read the emails again. Hint, he uses the word "presented" which completely changes the meaning of the sentence. For someone precise like Stallman, every word matters. Anyway, I have read the emails multiple times now and his only message was to reconsider all the facts first given the serious allegation of "sexual assault" on Minsky. Just because the media has twisted it does not make them true.


>Not one women including the "evidence" gathered in the original Medium posts mention that. Actual examples they do mention are quite common for socially inept individuals.

I said allegations. This doesn't come from the original Medium post, but the recent update. I was hopelessly socially inept and never did such a thing.

>He did not say that at all. Re-read the emails again. Hint, he uses the word "presented" which completely changes the meaning of the sentence. For someone precise like Stallman, every word matters. Anyway, I have read the emails multiple times now and his only message was to reconsider all the facts first given the serious allegation of "sexual assault" on Minsky. Just because the media has twisted it does not make them true.

Wether someone presents or doesn't has no bearing on it being sexual assault. Sexual acts with a minor are always sexual assault unless Romeo and Juliet laws apply, full stop. There is no need to put it in quotes.

Besides, it was abundantly clear to Minsky that these women were minors and that there was a high chance of sexual trafficking.


> Just because the media has twisted it does not make them true.

And you may already be aware of this, but for any third parties reading this, please be aware that these types of things are not a one-off innocent mistake. When you start actually looking you realize that literally everything the corporate press outputs is all part of a carefully crafted narrative, and at no point does actual capital-T Truth come into play.

See also: Gell-Mann Amnesia effect (except more malicious)


I have literally never read a corporate press article on this subject, all the data I have comes from independent allegations made by people who did contribute to free software.


I wasn’t replying to you to be clear, it was a general statement.

However your characterization of his comments wrt Minksy does make me question your credibility. If you couldn’t honestly characterize them, it is more likely that you could be equally disingenuous in recounting “independent allegations”.


I've come to that conclusion after reading the emails by myself.

Sexual relations with minors outside of Romeo and Juliet cases is always sexual assault, and it's even moreso when you're meeting those minors after stepping into the "Lolita Express", at the direct behest of someone that was publicly known to be in the sex trafficking business. Where I live that is unambiguously at least sexual assault, if not worse.


Minsky denies having sex - not that he ever wouldn’t if he did have sex - but my understanding is that she was above the age of consent in the jurisdiction they were in, assuming he knew her age.

“Where you live” should not be the determinant here

I don’t see how Stallman’s admittedly autistic comments are damning. He was pointing out that it is very plausible that to Minsky the girl presented herself as willing and consenting despite secretly being coerced by Epstein.


> Minsky denies having sex - not that he ever wouldn’t if he did have sex

Does the victim, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, agree or disagree with that denial?

If you read her actual deposition [0] it isn't very clear. It is clear that Epstein/Maxwell told her to have sex with Minsky, but it isn't clear whether it actually happened or not. She isn't explicit on that point, and the questioner doesn't ask her to elaborate.

As far as I am aware, in her subsequent public statements and interviews, she has never clarified this specific issue.

Obviously that makes a huge difference as to how one morally judges Minsky. Worse case scenario, Minsky was a willing and knowing client of Epstein's sex trafficking ring. Best case scenario, he displayed poor judgement in continuing to associate with Epstein after his conviction, but was innocent of any participation in Epstein's sexual crimes. I don't think we have enough facts to decide between those two possibilities, but maybe in the absence of evidence we ought to assume the best of people (and especially of the deceased.)

[0] https://drive.google.com/file/d/14ZOEKwoBnDKUFI1hLbFJH5nsUFx... pages numbered 204–205 (PDF pages 182-183)


I'm not a moral legalist nor an absolute moral relativist. Flying out to a different jurisdiction to do morally wrong things doesn't make out any better.

I don't understand how you could pretend that Epstein's coercion was secret. It was literally a matter of public record.


You changed the goalposts. We're not discussing whether it's moral or not. We're discussing Stallman's comment that the interaction between Minksy and the girl was plausibly not sexual assault - specifically whether his comment was unreasonable or not.

Obviously I'm not endorsing having sex with one of Epstein's victims...


> We're discussing Stallman's comment that the interaction between Minksy and the girl

No, it is irrelevant (that alone should not lead to letting him go).

The many cases of actual in-person harassments are the important parts, like actually grabbing a colleague’s ass and there is plenty of others - just because “that side” is wrong on the former point, doesn’t make them wrong on the other.


No, I'm not changing the goalposts. My definition of sexual assault doesn't change depending on where in the world the sexual assault takes places. Having sexual encounters with an underage person is at least sexual assault, full stop. I don't care if you flew to an island where it's technically legal beforehand or if local laws are different.


I mean these allegations from established researchers etc. are pretty damning https://twitter.com/grok_/status/1375049417926053894


Are they? Forgive me for being skeptical post-Kavanaugh but I find it hard to believe that Stallman licked somebody in public without it being big news...

I think we need to have actual standards of evidence when it comes to booting someone not just from the FSF but the community as a whole


> it was common knowledge that he was afraid of spider plants

"p.s.: In the closet-sized "office" Bushnell, McGrath, and I shared for a time we did have some spider plants as part of a running silly joke. They did not actually scare RMS away OF COURSE"

-- Thomas Lord.

Please note the capitalised "OF COURSE" and reflect on the veracity of your "common knowledge".


> When I was a grad student in 2002 it was common knowledge

You should always question what is "common knowledge" especially when it comes to emotional issues where prejudice is rampant.


> Dude was well established as a serial harasser

You've made the claim, now back it up - otherwise you're spreading hearsay.


Is there any easy catalog of these harassments somewhere? Preferably outside of social media-I can’t view the stuff.


I would say this is a pretty good run-down - https://selamjie.medium.com/remove-richard-stallman-appendix... .


Sounds like nasty gossip, did anyone actually verify any of this?


> I honestly don't understand it

It's easier to understand (I think) in the context of EEE and FUD. There's a reason why the big corporate players in the FOSS space - the FAANGs and Microsofts and the rest - prefer "open source" over "free software": they seek to control the movement, and want to leash it. The idea of users truly owning the software they use is antithetical to traditional corporate software development. Software freedom, in short, hurts their bottom line.

The smear campaigns against RMS and other free software advocates, the promotion of kafkaesque CoCs, the trend of ditching actual FOSS licenses for "almost" FOSS licenses, the constant push toward locked down hardware and opaque remotely-hosted software... these things are always wrapped up in what look like the best of intentions, but it's no coincidence that they consistently have corporate "allies" and consistently target anticorporate elements.


Plenty of people in the Free Software community don't feel represented by RMS. A lot of us were complaining about his behaviors even 15 years ago.


And he is still there, which probably shows how hard is to find another leader who would not bend over to the interests of big corporations.

The 1st reason behind these attack is to replace him with someone who can be easily controlled. Ask yourself a hundred times if you really want to replace someone who has odd ideas or is unlikable to some, with someone else who would destroy in a short time the work thousands developers did in decades.


First, I've never meet a FLOSS developer that wants a "leader". A spokeperson would be ok.

Second, organizations like Conservancy, EFF, FSFE, and many others don't seem to have any difficulty finding good public speakers.

The idea that we have to choose between RMS and some corporate drone is a false dichotomy plain an simple.


"First, I've never meet a FLOSS developer that wants a "leader". A spokeperson would be ok."

Well, I don't qualify as a developer, but if I was one I would badly want a good leader. When projects grow, be it in distance, time and number of people, you need good leaders (leaders, not dictators, although sometimes we would have some use for them as well). Broadly speaking a leader is someone who prevents UI wars before they happen, someone who will give the best common base to develop different audio servers without having them stomp on each others feet, someone who will prevent useful but not fun parts of a system to rot because all developers want to work on other parts that are more fun, etc. And with regards to the FSF, being a leader means also acting as the worst possible enemy of any entity wanting to violate open licenses by taking open code, closing it and make loads of money from it giving nothing in return, something RMS has been really good at, including teaching about the problem in very small conferences lots of spokespersons wouldn't accept to talk at. It's a shitty job that brings both friends and enemies, with the enemies being often among the most powerful, not something to be regarded as a prize. Being just a spokesperson, and technically speaking RMS is a good one, isn't enough anymore, IMO.

"The idea that we have to choose between RMS and some corporate drone is a false dichotomy plain an simple."

In a perfect world I would agree; RMS would step down to be replaced by the best possible candidate, and everyone is happy, case closed. Unfortunately smear campaigns orchestrated with the intent of removing someone from a seat, ready to be occupied by some "friend" aren't new. The way this is going seems to suggest that someone, somewhere, is ready to replace him with someone who would work against the Free Software community interests.


FSF is a political organization, not a software project. The people who lead FSF software projects are the mantainers not the board members.


Have you considered that a lot of people in the Free Software community do not care about other people "feeling represented" and instead want RMS especially because he does not submit to what feels convenient at the time? FLOSS is permanently under attack, from the industry (which recently switched from FUD to embrace and smother), from the legal framework, and from people inside the organisation. NOT going with the flow is exactly what us other people expect RMS to do.

Also, if you do not feel represented by an organisation, why not do the OpenSource-thing and fork the organisation?


> Also, if you do not feel represented by an organisation, why not do the OpenSource-thing and fork the organisation?

As of right now, the FSF Europe is no longer joined with the FSF


> instead want RMS especially because he does not submit to what feels convenient at the time?

That's some cheeky phrasing.

> FLOSS is permanently under attack, from the industry

Sure it is, and having a spokeperson that act very poorly in public does not help a bit.

> from the legal framework

Huh?

> NOT going with the flow is exactly what us other people expect RMS to do.

What is "the flow"? Doing very weird things in public? Hitting hard on women at conferences? Pleasing corporations?

> why not do the OpenSource-thing and fork the organisation?

We did: Conservancy, EFF, FSFE are thriving. (Why are you assuming we didn't?)


> RMS especially because he does not submit to what feels convenient at the time

I’m sure to a sick mind sexually harassing others feels convenient at the time, so apparently he is not that good at restraining himself...


Why the silent downvotes without explanation?


What do you mean by that? Do you mean his ideas on FOSS don't align with yours? He isn't representing your interests as a developer/user etc? Or is it because he is an old white man and you aren't?

For the first two perhaps there is an org that better aligns with your goals. Unless you are heavily invested into the FSF and wish to change its direction I think putting your energy into an org that aligns with you is a better way to spend your time.

If its the last one please explain to me how that isn't racist/sexist.


15 years? I knew the man was trouble when I met him over 30 years ago. I couldn't understand why people didn't see the man over their excitement for the movement. People seemed to like him simply because he was disruptive.


I am not sure, and happy to be corrected, but I think this article is so vague, that it must be gpt-3 writing.

But hey! I said I wasn't sure.


Oh wow that actually makes a lot more sense than the direct reading of the article


I thought it was pretty clear that the FSF has accomplished little and is prepared to accomplish less going forward. An advocacy organization without a legislative agenda, whose messaging remains ineffective and unchanged for decades, isn’t very good at advocacy.


What legislative agenda items would you like to see the FSF have? They base most of their work on the existing framework of copyright law.

As a secondary activity, they support some related freedom-increasing topics (Right to Repair).

If I look at outcomes, as measured by the adoption of open-source software, it’s hard for me to judge FSF as ineffective. If you want to argue that all of that adoption was incidental or accidental, entirely unrelated to the FSF, you’re welcome to advance that argument, but it will require more evidence than “I thought it was pretty clear”


Actually the FSF (in the form of the FSFE) have achieved rather a lot. Governments in Germany, for example (federal government general and the governments of the states) have been successfullly lobbied to use free software to create public documents, and to adopt the use of free software in general by their staff.

And why does the free software movement need a legislative agenda? I've never seen legislation concerning software that wasn't horribly flawed. Legislation is the product of lobbying and the ignorance of legislators. If the FSF promoted a "legislative agenda", then I for one would have much diminished confidence in it.


A bunch of the people involved in creating the fsfe have publicly stated that is was founded because of disagreements with the FSF and it's leadership. If I recall correctly, the about page of fsfe stated this for a long time.

The fsfe now also officially cut their ties to FSF because of RMS' reapportionment.


>And why does the free software movement need a legislative agenda? I've never seen legislation concerning software that wasn't horribly flawed. Legislation is the product of lobbying and the ignorance of legislators.

That's a good reason to have a legislative agenda. Laws will be written, and some will likely impact the FSF's interests. If they send lobbyists and lawyers to argue for specific wording, the laws might not suck so much.


> the FSF (in the form of the FSFE)

As of right now, they are separate organizations.


Thanks, I wasn't aware of that.


Unions in Germany have fought to get Microsoft Office back.


I find that hard to believe - the opposite, resistance against the employee surveillance Office 365 enables, is a hot topic in most German unions right now.


> So, for example, if it were to turn out that, all other things being equal, providing source code for libraries could be shown to produce software of inferior quality (and there is much evidence to support such a conclusion) [...]

Wait, WHAT?!

This is not an accidental negation, he refers to it in the rest of the paragraph.

This person must be trolling or testing bullshit arguments to see which ones sort of fly, for use in whatever bullshit-oriented job they do.


I share your feeling that the author is throwing a lot of BS onto the wall, knowing that some of it will stick. I believe this is a well-executed tactic because I don't think this article is written for software developers, it's written for slacktivists and the public at large. There are just too many parts where he tries to hide behind generalized statements designed to garner superficial agreement.

The fact that this got a lot of exposure should serve as a warning sign though. The FSF is vulnerable and struggling to maintain relevance. Both the re-hiring and the controversy around RMS illustrate that in my opinion: whenever the discourse gets diverted away from Free software, it's a distraction they can ill afford.

Either they didn't know that this would happen or they wanted it to happen. In any case, they're now even more vulnerable to these kinds of hit pieces, and I'm afraid the RMS issue could generate enough public interest for larger publications to execute successful strikes against the idea of Free software itself.


That statement was what caught my interest in this piece.

What is the "much evidence" which the author refers to? I'm genuinely interested; if anyone here knows of any such evidence, please, tell us! What is it?

My personal experience is the exact opposite; I have not personally found closed-source libraries to offer better quality in general. Of course, there is a lot of junk out there which is open source. But most of the small number of rock-solid, tried-tested-and-true code libraries which I am aware of are open source.


I have seen lots of "evidence" that closed source companies will sweep all problems under the rug or even sue you if you find a vulnerability. Meanwhile maintainers of floss software will just fix the vulnerability, often within a few days if you already spotted the relevant part of the source code.

My worst experience has been with a proprietary rack mount appliance. The closed source software was absolute garbage. It wasn't even a library, it's even more fundamental. It was network equipment, you know, a problem domain that didn't change significantly in the last 20 years. Crap closed source software exists, it just has a harder time propagating because it fails to bring in money. Meanwhile any random FOSS project can last a human lifetime, assuming it is archived properly.


I think low quality code is probably correlated with open source, but the causality runs in the other direction. It's easy to write garbage and throw it up on Github as your only deliverable, whereas the minimum deliverable for closed source is a functional binary.

Which is why FUD like this is so dangerous. It makes sense in PHB land where they don't understand that a programmer doesn't just use the first hit for a given functionality, but investigates whether it's actually worthwhile to use.


Hmm. This makes sense, but I wonder if it would be more accurate to say the quality of open source code is more variable than closed source. If you filter out the worst junk, would low quality code still correlate with open source?

Just thinking out loud. Anyways, I think you may have identified what the author of the piece had in mind.


He was likely paid to write that article.

There is so much disinformation from an apparently knowledgeable person, that it has to be intentional. No way an ignorant person would create all those falsehoods in the article by a random chance of being mistaken.


Somewhat off-topic, but THANK YOU! I thought I was the only one that didn't buy the common saying "do not attribute to malice what can be explained by incompetence" (the "I was stupid" defense).

No, there's no way someone can be that stupid. This is intentional evil.


> No, there's no way someone can be that stupid.

Unfortunately, my experience in various industries leads me to disagree.


I admit I did not read the whole essay, but I think the idea of free software is more relevant today than ever, and is only getting more so. In fact, I think we're approaching the "runaway" part of an exponential curve.

We're in a place where non-programmers and non-hackers are waking up to the importance of transparency and data ownership, and there's no way to achieve that without free software.

I like the idea of public software mentioned in the article, which I understand to be software which is fully transparent and verifiable by everyone, which also sounds a lot like free software.

I think the term "public" is more understandable by a non-technical person, and I may adopt using it after some consideration.


> In fact, I think we're approaching the "runaway" part of an exponential curve.

Tangential nitpick: There's no "runaway" part of an exponential curve. At every point along the x-axis (typically time), the curve looks exactly the same. This property is often abused by writers who want to make you believe that now is the time when everything changes – although in fairness, they often deceive themselves.

If you don't believe me, look at plots [1] and [2]. In both cases it looks like the past was flat and the "knee" of the curve is right in front of you, promising an exciting future!

[1] https://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=plot+exp%28x%29+x+%3D+...

[2] https://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=plot+exp%28x%29+x+%3D+...


You're fighting the good fight. I've recently seen the term "exponential" used in the press to mean all sort of things, but mostly as equivalent to "really fast". This kind of thing may be inevitable, but it's a pity that such sharp and descriptive terminology is decaying into just another term for "growing quickly".


I've seen this abuse of the term "exponential" a lot in the press as well (i.e. meaning "really fast"). This is unfortunate in these pandemic times; a new infection does indeed spread through a susceptible population exponentiaally (at least while the susceptible population is much larger than the infectious population).

By degrading the language, journalists deprive themselves of the ability to talk clearly about the spread of the pandemic. I think this abuse of "exponential" is supposed to make the writer look erudite, even though they haven't a clue what the word means.


There are journalists who understand the meaning of "exponential."


Relative to an absolute viewpoint and habitat, there is a runaway though. Beings are not relativistic.

Update: I guess this is a tangent on a tangent, pun intended.


> Relative to an absolute viewpoint [...]

Any yet this "absolute" viewpoint is never really absolute, but always relative to the authors current position in time – as if by coincidence.

EDIT: To clarify, when an author uses an exponential curve to make the "runaway" argument, they almost never justify why the current absolute value of the curve should have special significance over the absolute values at other points in time. For example, in forgotmypw17's original post, there's no explanation why the current status of free software is at a special threshold – or what "exponential curve" they're even talking about.


If your cellar is filling up with water exponentially, the last half could fill up in the last timeperiod.

In a limited world, exponential changes are sometimes catastrophic.


The “relativeness” comes from time, not from us. Judging the curve today, the past looks flat and the future looks steep. In 5 years the same will be true: today will seem flat and the future will seem steep — that’s the point of OP showing both of those ranges. It is this relative perspective that precisely creates the illusion of a runaway point, an “absolute” perspective gives you the fractal understanding that the graph is the same at every dimension.


Perhaps this use of “fractal” is technically incorrect, which could spawn another, smaller, yet similar discussion in response...


Most exponential curves are only exponential until they hit a limit and become an S-curve. These sort of have a runaway point. But in this article full of hyperbole and falsehoods, steelmanning its bad arguments might not be appropriate.


Many things aren't actually exponential. Adoption of something new may look exponential at the start, but then becomes an S curve. The middle of the S is the point of maximum slope and does represent a transition.


Sure, but it’s a transition to slowing down, not going faster.


Definitely agree if we're just talking about the curve itself, but the "runaway" part comes from the context of what it's measuring. If we're talking exponential deaths - I don't care if the "curve" looks the same on day 5 as day 20. It's certainly starting to runaway if now instead of 32 deaths a day there are 1 million a day (2^x)


Sorry, I am not a statistician, nor a mathematician, and I appreciate your clarification.

What I meant was that the part of the adoption curve which has been nearly horizontal for a long time is curving upwards and is about to hit a near-vertical. May or may not be actually "exponential".

If you know of a good way to express this which will not annoy field experts, please let me know.


That's because you scale the y axis along with it. If you were to define the y axis as added value from 0(no added value) to 10(very high added value), then this is only going to start getting interesting around x=0. Before that the change is still exponential but the value not significant according to our (arbitrarily) defined value scale.


> I think the term "public" is more understandable by a non-technical person, and I may adopt using it after some consideration.

https://publiccode.eu


I think you're maybe confusing 'Free Software' in the FSF sense, and just 'free' or 'open' software in the broadest sense.

Open/Free/Public software is obviously very useful.

But it's the 'copyleft' stuff that I think the author is taking umbrage with.

It's arguably we don't really need copyleft to do any of the things you indicate as being important.


The FSF has never said that free software must be copylefted. The article itself says that De Icaza and Stallman agreed that open source and free software are the same set of software and the only difference is the intent of the person who is going to use that software.


The difference is the intent of the person who RELEASES the software.

Free software under the GPL is deliberately restrictive. Put briefly, it’s designed to prevent someone from taking your software and releasing it under a license more restrictive than the GPL itself. It enforces the right to run the software, study it, distribute changed versions, and benefit from other people’s changes.

With “open source”, meaning something like the MIT license, anyone can take the software you wrote, change it to add features, wrap it up in a fancy package, and sell it without source code access. You wouldn’t be able to even run the new version without buying a copy.

Stallman has been explaining this for nearly forty years. He even wrote a book about it.

https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/

https://shop.fsf.org/books-docs/free-software-free-society-s...


Jordi, by attacking RMS at this very moment you are joining people such as the author of this article, Microsoft and Google who want to destroy Free Software and Open Source alike. You are right on your views about leadership, but in practice you are acting as an enemy agent destroying free software from within. This is very saddening and embarrassing.


RMS is not free software, and it's very distressing that people think he is. This is a cult of personality.


100% agree. But he's not attacked because he farts in elevators or because of his awkward social antics. He's attacked by Microsoft and Google because he represents free software, or at least an important part of it. This attack is joined by an army of well-intentioned people who attack him by legitimate reasons like you do. The fact that these two attacks are parallel is really harmful.

Churchill was a horrible person, far more horrible than RMS can ever be. Would you have supported a coup to defenestrate Churchill during the Battle of Britain? On whose side would you be in the light of history if you did that?


> He's attacked by Microsoft and Google because he represents free software

Almost none of the 2000 signatories are Microsoft and Google. There's no conspiracy here. You don't need to find a hidden villain in this story to explain why we don't want Stallman anymore. This is all out in the open. We really all know him over the decades and we know he needs to step down.


I hope you are right. Time will tell. But it breaks my heart to see the world falling around us while we fight about using the correct pronouns.


I don't understand this gloom and doom. Wasn't the /re/instatement of rms whole reason for the current 'world falling around us' ?

Are you saying Microsoft and Google have cleverly infiltrated FSF and reinstated rms knowing fully well that the FLOSS ecosystem would implode?


No. The world is crumbling around us because we are more and more encroached by the dystopian nightmare that big tech is building. The FSF is one of the last beacons of sanity (regardless of who leads it), for they are amongst the few to have an uncompromising stance for the right to read [0] and for general-purpose computing [1]. Now the FSF is being attacked by a Microsoft-led mob (via Sarah Mei, from Salesforce in partnership with Microsoft), and they write damning "open letters" that are hosted by Microsoft. They are opportunistically joined by people from the Open Source Initiative, and also by well-intentioned people like jordigh who are legitimately concerned by the FSF leadership, but in my opinion have chosen the worst moment to act. I'm really sad and embarrassed by all this. I just want to keep hacking but I'm full of gloom and doom instead.

[0] https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/right-to-read.html

[1] https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Coming_War_on_General_Com...


Although, yeah my comment was a passing snark and perhaps didn't contribute much, from your response it is evident that you have a more pessimistic and blinkered view of the world than I do.

> The FSF is one of the last beacons of sanity (regardless of who leads it)

No. Emphatically No. This is what was always unappealing to me about FSF.

They pretend that they are the only ones who care. Furthermore only things that they care about (software freedom) are the only things that should matter. Even your comment regarding pronouns reflects this. In an alternate world, the Freedom to choose my pronoun foundation is the last bastion fighting against the evil FSF.

Why is it hard to see that we won the one battle in making the world a better place. FLOSS is what it is today thanks to FSF (and the BSDs, and Apache, and PSF, and...). It is time now to continue this war by speaking about intersectional freedoms.

Even if you don't believe the battle is won, why sacrifice the war for the sake of one outdated commander?


No it's not, most people DON'T like his personality. It's the exact opposite. He's tolerated because of his views and actions on free software.


"Cult of personality" doesn't literally mean someone's personality. It means making a cult out of a person. The way people are saying that attack rms is attacking free software itself is very much a cult of personality.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cult_of_personality

rms is not free software. The 2000 signatories of the letter are free software. We are a community much larger than a single man.

Seeing the signatories of that letter is like seeing all of my old friends. I know that guy from debconf and that one from pycon and oh yeah we used to hang out in that irc channel man remember when we worked together on that bug.


People are attacking the FSF BECAUSE of stallman. YOU and your lot are the people that are making him a cult of personality. Again, he is a quirky old man who is in that position, because of his contributions and his views. I sat next to him and I never particularly liked him. But this is the same shit that you people did when you destroyed Mozilla to make an example out of Brendan Eich only to get him replaced with the Chief of Marketing and then wondering why Mozilla's direction is weird.

You don't get to turn this into a cult of personality yourself, then attack it and then blame the other side for it. Your logic here is nothing short of insane.

I don't see you calling for the tearing down of founding fathers statues and the US constitutions. All but 3 of them were slave owners, so probably have a bunch of cruelties they did while they were alive.


> But this is the same shit that you people did when you destroyed Mozilla to make an example out of Brendan Eich

"You people"? Come now, stay classy.

> I don't see you calling for the tearing down of founding fathers statues and the US constitutions. All but 3 of them were slave owners, so probably have a bunch of cruelties they did while they were alive.

I don't see anyone here trying to erase RMS from history, so I don't see how this applies. But I imagine if your founding fathers would magically come alive, it would be a dumb idea to elect one of them president.


> I don't see anyone here trying to erase RMS from history

Define "here". Is it this thread, or the current attack on RMS and the FSF at large? If the latter, Sarah Mei and the author of this article, to name some examples, are definitely trying to erase RMS and his achievements. This particular article is mostly garbage (I think you'll agree) but the people trying to reframe RMS' entire life history in terms of alleged harassment and various moral infractions are definitely trying to get him erased.


Keep in mind that Sarah Mei also looks through everything in terms of diversity through the american lense of literal black and white skin color[1], completely disregarding the fact that some of these people in Europe - myself included - have had their fair share of racism across Europe even though we are considered "white" in the US. Ask turks how they are treated in Germany or people from the Maghreb region in southern france or Romas even though they're "white caucasian dudes" in these peoples eyes. Besides myself getting pepper sprayed from old Germans myself on the top of my head there is a study in Germany that gives you a 50% less chance of getting hired if you have a non central European name. The self righteousness and ignorance of these people knows no bounds.

[1] http://www.sarahmei.com/blog/2015/02/01/the-fosdem-conundrum...


vrms is free software though. In the unlikely event you're not already using it, you should. It looks through your installed packages to find non-freely licensed software, and if none if found then you win.


It's admiration of an admirable person who has accomplished a lot of good in the world. How do you call that a cult?


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