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Free Software truly does deserve better than RMS. The guy is just about the least-suited person to being a spokesman (or any public figure) I've seen. As a hacker and behind-the-scenes guy, sure. But his complete lack of tact, social skills, and presentability makes him more harmful than helpful as a figurehead.

[There goes my karma...]

Since a lot of people here seemed to have an emotional reaction to Jobs' passing, I had no desire to say anything here. But now the topic is Stallman, and for whatever reason, people are wanting to discuss his comments.

I (and probably most people I know) don't think Stallman's comments are a big deal. Steve was known for acting cruelly to people; apparently acted like a sociopath. If he treated people like shit when he was alive, then it's not the end of the world when someone says a few less-than-respectful things about him when he's gone.

When confronted with the death of someone he disliked, I doubt Steve would be so sentimental. (At least not inwardly.)

> Steve was known for acting cruelly to people; apparently acted like a sociopath

Stallman is also a sociopath by your definition then; remember his comments in some mailing list when someone announced they had had a child. There are plenty of other examples. Richard Stallman is an asshole. A brilliant and useful asshole, but an asocial asshole incapable of basic empathy nonetheless.

I don't admire either of them (though I'd give more credit to Stallman for fighting the good and difficult fight all these years), but it seems to me that Stallman's supporters behave exactly the way they claim Jobs' supporters do - by eulogizing and finding excuses for the ugly sides of their heroes and claiming "the others" are a cult.

History is full of brilliant and useful assholes. both Jobs and Stallman should be given their rightful due and called on their failings. But neither of them should be casting aspersions about the other (not that Jobs can do that anymore). At some level they are fundamentally the same.

>remember his comments in some mailing list when someone announced they had had a child.

I can't find that comment:(

I'm not sure whether to laugh or grimace.

The problem is that Stallman is a very public spokesperson for free software and he does an absolutely terrible job.

It’s impossible to ignore the effects he has in his role and they are terrible.

I am yet to see a press release saying a company decided to go closed source because they disagree with what Richard Stallman says. Can you point to any specific examples where Richard Stallman and his views have pushed a project that was on the open source path into the closed source direction.

"The open source path" includes many steps before you actually see any source from people. Once they've released source, it's a little late to go back. But they might be turned away from going through the trouble and risk of releasing source in the first place if they perceive that Richard Stallman is the type of person they'd be appeasing.

But more to the point, Stallman does not just want open-source software. He wants free software, and just based on my informal observations, his ideas of free software seem to be losing traction these days. Yeah, there's a lot of open-source software, but BSD, Apache, MIT and other open-source-but-not-free licenses are taking the lion's share.

Even among projects that do use GPL, they mostly seem to prefer v2 rather than the more-free GPL3 and AGPL.

BSD, Apache and MIT are all Free licenses, even by Stallman's viewpoint. They're just not copyleft.

He thinks the Open Source movement misses the point, but he has no problems accepting their software as Free.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think that keeping existing open source projects open source is all Stallman wants.

Do you honestly believe that his comments help push for more free software? I don’t.

I dont claim to know what Richard Stallman wants or what effects his words have.

What?! I think Stallman has always been pretty clear about what he wants. It’s not clarity that he lacks as a spokesperson.

Your original post had - "It’s impossible to ignore the effects he has in his role and they are terrible.". You failed to cite a single effect let alone it being terrible. I merely asked you to point out things that you think are hard to miss but that I dont know about at all.

I think that claiming to know what someone else wants falls in the same category as speaking on their behalf - something that should only be done in very limited circumstances.

Anyone more competent as a spokesperson for the FSF... would not be.

It is the sort of position that can only be publicly lead by someone who is more than a little eccentric. Anyone else would not be able to walk their own walk.

Richard Stallman does an excellent job of defining what it means to be a free software radical. He makes the rest of us look far more moderate and reasonable by comparison, which is a very valuable thing.

Why do you feel he does a terrible job? Does the Tea party do a terrible job? Does Dawkins do a terrible job? Did Marx, Nietzsche, Augustine, ... do terrible jobs? I don't doubt you can think of awesome people that others think are doing -- or did -- terrible jobs.

I'm glad someone says the things he says and I think it would be a loss if nobody said these things anymore. He's as much a visionary as Steve Jobs was, only his vision does not get carried out be a multi-billion dollar company, so he needs to keep spreading it with his mouth. He doesn't care about selling the vision, because that doesn't work in a world where many people believe Ayn Rand is someone with deep insight in how the world could and should be organised.

I’m not so much talking about content but about delivery and style.

free software isn't a religious movement like Stallman would like it to be.

it's just a social concept (one of many) of how we humans should organise our interactions with regards to software.

I believe it's an useful concept and probably so do you. For god's sake, we don't need a spokesperson!

Arrogant? For sure. Narcissistic even? perhaps. Sociopath? Give me a fucking break.

I think he meant psychopath rather than sociopath. It's been hypothesized that many great CEO's are psychopathic.


"Sociopath" is the new term for "psychopath", more or less. The differences are hairsplitting: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychopathy#Psychopathy_vs._soc...

If they've got anything to say to Steve they should've said it to HIS FACE when he was alive. RMS is a low life pig and a coward and I won't be surprised if people piss in his grave after he dies a lonely death.

You can say a lot of things about RMS, but coward is not one of them.

RMS has been saying very public things about Apple for almost 30 years. If he met Steve Jobs in person, he would not have hesitated to say much, much worse.

I don't doubt they've met each other on several occasions and that RMS has told Steve to his face that he disagreed with him. They moved in a lot of overlapping circles and RMS is many things, but certainly not a coward or a hypocrite. He has always put his money where his mouth is.

" RMS is a low life pig and a coward and I won't be surprised if people piss in his grave after he dies a lonely death"

So.. did you say this to his face ?

I upvoted you on purely on the basis of human decency.

Edit: I'll leave this up, downvote away. I made my comment on the basis of the first part - "If they've got anything to say to Steve they should've said it to HIS FACE when he was alive."

RMS's statement lacked any class or tact, and I will be more than willing to tell RMS what I think of his comments should I ever meet him in person.

While I am with you about finding RMS action here despicable, the comment you upvoted was not appropriate for HN.

As I have no doubt RMS would have told Jobs what he thought directly as he has done this in the past with many people. I remember him getting an award and in his speech speaking his mind about the people giving him the award (it was an opensource conference) about using the word opensource etc... He's not shy to insult whoever contradicts his views.

Jobs was a notoriously private person, so I'm fairly confident saying that if you didn't know him personally, you aren't qualified to guess how he'd react to the death of someone. My guess is that he'd be quite reflective on the concept of death, but then again, I'm not qualified to speculate either.

That's why Linus, not Stallman, is the first name that comes to my mind when I think about FOSS. He's headstrong, sometimes a bit mean, positively pragmatic but also handsome, and -- oddly -- very likable. He's a bit like Steve Jobs, in a twisted way.

He definitely has charisma. I remember seeing a video of him and Stallman on stage, and Linus' kid comes on stage and starts playing with Linus while Stallman is ranting about freedom.

This one? Stallman receiving Torvalds award at LinuxWorld conf 1999


It is kind of hard to oust a figurehead if he is also the founding father. Perhaps the FSF likes his uncompromising views. (Think of PETA and their crazy-ass leadership.)

Also this isn't new behavior. Stallman has been like this his whole life. People are hitting back in this case because it is about Steve Jobs.

>People are hitting back in this case because it is about Steve Jobs.

I'm hitting back because it's just another in a very long line of events that suggests Stallman is something other than a 'people person'. I've made the point before that I thought he was a poor choice to speak for the FSF, and was downvoted for it, iirc.

I don't think what he said about Jobs was that bad, but I think he showed incredibly poor judgement as a public figure in saying it. It's indicative of a lack of suitability for the role he's chosen.

He's also an extreme fundamentalist. I don't think he knows what 'compromise' or 'real world' mean.

He lacks taste, class and humanity.

>I don't think he knows what 'compromise' or 'real world' mean.

Isn't that how we got a functional free software stack though? A "real world" "compromise" pragmatic guy would have bought another printer and moved on.

The world needs idealists. We may not always agree with them, they sometimes sound crazy, but they play an important role.

I dunno, Linus does pretty well, doesn't he?

For those of us who've been around a while, GNU wasn't very notable until the Linux kernel came around. I figure Linux has probably done more for GNU PR than rms or anyone else.

GNU already included the best C compiler, the best text editor, and a number of other development tools, before the Linux kernel came around. For the people who were on the internet already at the time, it was quite notable.

It is certainly true, though, that without Linux, GNU might easily have collapsed in the early 1990s.

I didn't really consider gcc or much of the other GNU stuff very viable back then. Emacs, sure. But most of it seems to have matured after Linux's popularity grew.

It might depend on what you were doing. I mean, Cygnus was founded in 1989, and I think they had revenue by 1990. So at least some people considered it so viable they were willing to pay a tiny startup hundreds of thousands of dollars for it by then.

I'm pretty sure we've always had free software, from the moment people started writing software.

Surely most of us started out downloading free software from BBSes? Remember fractint?

Sorry, but if Stallman hadn't done anything, we'd still have Linux, and all the other software we enjoy today.

Fractint is a perfect case study. It has died, not because people stopped computing fractals, but because it was under a no-commercial-distribution license, not a free-software license. That meant that commercial Linux distributors like Red Hat couldn't include it in their product, and so it gradually lost the contributors who could have kept it relevant.

Linux was originally under a similar license. It could have died in the same way, leaving only the BSD projects, which have been much less effective at attracting contributors. You could argue that maybe without competition from Linux, they would have been able to attract more contributors; but I think the truth is the opposite — with fewer free-software users, there would be fewer free-software contributors, and less free software, increasingly marginalizing free-software systems.

And, without inspiration from Stallman's ideology, even BSD would never have become free, according to Keith Bostic.

So we'd have some free software, but we wouldn't have a coherent movement that strives to ensure that everyone can use a 100%-free-software system.

I disagree. It died once everyone had generated a billion fractals and it was no longer particularly cool.

They started being repetitive because the software stopped gaining new abilities, because people stopped working on it.

>Sorry, but if Stallman hadn't done anything, we'd still have Linux, and all the other software we enjoy today.

Are you absolutely certain about that? Think about it: if for example Linus had released his kernel with a more permissive license, he might not have received as many contributions, and maybe Linux would never have become as great as it is now.

Personally, I'm certain it would have happened anyway. Even going further, if Linus hadn't done Linux, someone else would have hacked together a free open source Unix OS and got a following behind it.

History is littered with cases where a large number of people 'discover' or 'invent' something, and then one of them happens to be credited with it, and goes down in history as "the inventor". But it was bound to happen anyway.

>History is littered with cases where a large number of people 'discover' or 'invent' something, and then one of them happens to be credited with it, and goes down in history as "the inventor". But it was bound to happen anyway.

You could say the same of Einstein, or ... even Steve Jobs :)

I think it's a little different though. There's millions of programmers with all the skills needed to write gcc or linux etc. The only thing needed is time. But to be an Einstein or Jobs requires a bit more skill and there's far fewer people in the right circumstances to be an Einstein or Jobs.

Selective bias again. Jobs seems to have this effect on people. Torvalds is more than just a coder, and his mix of what's important and his personal philosophy is every bit as special as Jobs'.

We wouldn't have had Linux without GNU (or something like it).

Why not? Wouldn't Linus have just hacked together the tools he needed like gcc etc?

Not having software isn't a show stopper. It just means you have a bit more work to do. So yeah maybe building gcc might have taken a few months, but it wouldn't have prevented anything, only delayed the inevitable.

It's impossible to know whether or not Linux would exist without GNU, but GCC isn't something you can hack together in a few months. Clang is the closest thing to a GCC replacement we have, and it didn't compile Linux until October 2010 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clang)

Since GCC exists, the motivation to build another gcc is far less. If gcc had not have existed, people would have built what was needed.

This isn't rocket science, it's just programming. We don't invent things, we just build what needs building.

You might naïvely think that, but it turns out that things that need building often don't get built, or at least not for many years after they first needed building. I mean, you could have written jQuery in 1999. We still have problems with hardware that isn't supported by free software.

You're comparing a compiler (necessary to build stuff), with a javascript library which makes things a bit easier for newbies?

If people needed a compiler, they would have built one. Jquery was an optional addition that some like using. It hasn't enabled things that weren't possible before.

> You're comparing a compiler (necessary to build stuff),

You may not be aware of this, but people were writing working computer programs for almost 20 years before they invented compilers. People still occasionally write working computer programs today without compilers.

> with a javascript library which makes things a bit easier for newbies?

I've been programming since 1980. I've been doing AJAX (and Comet!) since 2000 — very reluctantly at first! I've shipped production software that kicked Cisco's ass, in the market, at managing Cisco devices. I'm in the AUTHORS file for Perl 5, although I don't deserve to be. Among other things, I've written OLAP systems; user interfaces; music softsynths; 3-D engines, one of which was in JavaScript; full-text search engines; mailserver software; and compilers.

And I think jQuery is awesome.

> If people needed a compiler, they would have built one. Jquery was an optional addition that some like using. It hasn't enabled things that weren't possible before.

No software "enables" things that weren't possible before; obviously if it hadn't been possible to do the things that the software "enabled", it would have been impossible to write the software.

In particular, any software you can write with a compiler, you can write in machine code. It's just more work.

But some software gives you a lot of leverage. jQuery is a good example. A C compiler is another good example. The leverage provided by the two is roughly comparable.


Its sort of difficult not to call your posts trolling.

Not having tools at hand is a major factor for not to pursue a project everywhere in the world. Not just in the open source world. I don't think Guido or Larry or Matz would have taken trouble to write a compiler to write Python or Perl or Ruby.

Not to mention nearly all major open source projects and many other closed projects are using gcc one way or the other. I bet even Apple uses gcc in some way.

Work happens by incrementally building on others work. Even Linus agrees RMS is one of the giants on whose shoulders he has stood to look farther.

RMS might have some problems communicating in most socially accepted ways. But he has achieved and helped other achieve far more things valuable. And he has done it in time. A lot of people have built on top of his work. And a lot of that work has made a lot of money and provided employment.

Its wrong to compare Steve Jobs and Richard Matthew Stallman. They are great in their own rights. But in terms of absolute comparisons, RMS has achieved far more than Jobs.

iProducts are the cool must have gadgets of this era, they haven't changed the world any more than video games have.

Whoah there. He may lack conventional taste and class, but he is driven by his humanity. It's his whole reason for being - to free everyone from technological shackles. He's all about doing this for the benefit of all.

Is he? Or is he fundamentally a troubled, self-righteous individual with an axe to grind? It's easy to rationalize this behavior as primarily altruistic, but in RMS's case I kind of doubt it.

No one will even notice when RMS dies.

Exactly. There is no difference between either the Phelps or the Stallman message. Insane fundamentalists looking to draw attention to themselves and their ideals through an offensive message when they know that the community is experiencing an emotional event together.

It's akin to car-bombing a funeral; something only really insane or angry people do. And last time I checked, Stallman doesn't have much to be angry about.

There is no difference between either the Phelps or the Stallman message.

There... uh.. seems to be a lot of difference between "god kills soldiers because gay people exist" and "software should be free." Even though his quip about Jobs's death was tacky, I'm still gonna give RMS more points than the Westboro Baptist Church.

> Even though his quip about Jobs's death was tacky

There's a big difference between being tacky out of ignorance and immaturity and deliberately hurtful in a public forum with a measured audience. Coupled with a sense of timing and purpose, any sane and intelligent person would be able to make that distinction.

And much like a car-bomber at a funeral, what sets Stallman aside from the rest of us is the opportunistic cowardice with which he operates. If he truly felt harmed by Steve Job's actions whilst living, why didn't he make a case for him to die sooner rather than waiting for his death to be fait accompli?

Not sure where you're trying to go with that last part, but I disagree that one can equivocate car bombing, Fred Phelps, and RMS.

Guess I should've just wrote that it's wrong to kick people while they're down.

Are you seriously asking why Stallman doesn't desire the death of his ideological opponents?

What? Stallman specifically says he's not glad Jobs is dead, but he's glad his influence is gone. He's not happy that Jobs is dead.

As for opportunistic cowardice? Have you ever heard of RMS before? He's constantly saying these things, and to anyone who will listen (and some who won't).

Likening Stallman to a car-bomber is far worse than what Stallman actually said - you don't really have the moral ground to call someone else an opportunistic coward.

Says the guy who chose the name of a mass murderer for his HN handle.

RMS: the guy who doesn't have what it takes to finish GNU even after 27 years.

They finished the "Not Unix!" part, but then they have to go and do the remaining GNU part. Since it's recursive, this could take a while.

The vast majority of GNU is running on every Linux machine out there. That's why RMS insists on calling such machines "GNU/Linux machines", because they're running GNU with Linux as the kernel.

What would it even mean to "finish GNU"? That doesn't make any sense.

He probably means Hurd.

the OS/kernel

RMS has stated publicly that GNU Hurd has been significantly deprioritized for some time due to the introduction of Linux. Specifically noting that the deficiencies Linux suffers would not be resolved by the completion of GNU Hurd.

On the other hand, a friend of mine does use GNU Hurd on one of his machines. He's a little loopy though.

If you want GNU/Hurd so much, why don't you start working on it?

Sure. deprioritized. Whatever. HURD blows.

"HURD blows."

Be careful, I think you just agreed with RMS there. ;)

On a more serious note, you seem to be doing some pretty heavy trolling today. Why don't you step back from the computer and go get some air? Life is good.

Hence its indefinite de-prioritization, yes. Is there actually a dispute here?

you know what. i think that's a good idea.

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