I used to be an avid supporter of the FSF, but in the recent years I've been shying away from them because I don't see how they're relevant to the well-being of free software. In fact I've come to see them as a lobbying group pushing their one-sided view of what free software is and how it should be. I much prefer to support free software projects and the people who actually write and maintain free software. I do this in the form of testing, code contributions, code review, bug reports, and user support. I'd also donate if I weren't living on a student's budget.
I used to be subscribed to some FSF mailing list. They kept asking for donations, but never did they give the impression that they're spending it on improving or making any free software I value. Sorry, I don't want to support their lobbying with my money.
Yes, they are blunt and provocative, but that's how you incite debate and bring about more attention to your cause. The main problem is that they aren't getting much traction for various reasons. One is that end users aren't aware of free software and major vendors aim to keep it that way, and another is that the benefits of free software aren't immediately obvious to the end user.
Only if it's a cause people have any reason to care about. Otherwise you look like a crank. The FSF's lack of understanding of people who are not obsessively like them has delivered them firmly to "crank" territory and they have been there for most of the time I've been aware of their existence (so 12-ish years at least?).
They make more reasonable people and more reasonable arguments seem less valid to most people through their existence. Which is fine to me, I find "free software" distasteful and preachy, but if they actually wanted to be successful, they'd turn down the steadfast unwillingness to understand normal people a whole lot.
The only thing that really can be done is to fund and promote the development of free software replacements for software that everyone wants to use, which the FSF is already doing and has been doing for quite some time.
I haven't heard of FSFE and FSFLA starting any campaigns of the sort, and they seem to be having some kind of actual effect.
As for this article, I'm curious to know why (or if) anyone would donate money to the FSF to be used for lobbying rather than giving it to an established lobbying organization like the EFF or ACLU.
regarding your second paragraph, fsf needs money to carry campaigns to tell the people about the inconvenient truth.
However, the FSF is absolutist and views their particular politics as inseparable from the goals, almost as if the politics are the goal itself. This is at best childish, because mixed in with their message that contains "inconvenient truth" they also include a lot of unnecessary BS. The logic that accompanies their political reasoning is patchy and convoluted at best, but these holes are pasted over with overwhelming passion and feeling.
I could support a more rational organization or lobby group, even if I didn't agree 100% with their politics, if we shared common goals. The FSF makes that impossible. They will therefore see no support from me, despite my continued support for our common goals.
I often see this kind of hyperbole and it seems very meaningless to me. Their particular strategy has remained pretty consistent and has managed to fund development of a good number of successful projects. If it's their PR you have a problem with, what is it that you want them to say? That it's okay to support the use of proprietary software sometimes, even though that's completely against the whole point?
If that were true they would have never created the LGPL.
Without any evidence, I really don't see why these two things must go together.
I don't think there's anything which can truly be declared apolitical, because people can always _make_ it political. Not necessarily "party" politics, but any case where there are costs and benefits which accrue to different groups.
So, I can completely understand that the FSF feels that their time is best served by getting the public to change their views regarding Free Software vs proprietary software. I don't think that it has been very effective, but it is a heck of an uphill battle. But doing this in combination with their other work (lobbying, writing briefs for court cases, acting as a GPL violator watch dog, and publicizing when large organizations have selected Free Software over a proprietary alternative) also help the cause more than funding any particular project I can think of.
I am enchanted by the freedoms of free software, just as I am by freedoms in broader life; Freedom is part of the product when I pay for software, and the understanding is that I will come back to the author if I want the work of the people who best understand it, rather than the people who refuse to let me.
I just wish "free software" wasn't owned by Richard(for whom I have no personal gripe), because Richard has a government addiction(even when it comes to problems widely caused by government to begin with, such as software patent litigation).
If we can learn to separate our understanding of justice from our misguided best wishes for the state, I think free software, and freedom in general can prosper.
Just because Stallman is the most vocal voice behind Free Software Movement doesn't mean he owns freedom or free software. He is doing a wonderful job of bringing about awareness of free software (not just "open" software).
As for any added restrictions, GPLv3 added two things exactly:
1#) they added a clause that says users should have the right to exercise the permission given by the license to devices those users own. Adding technical, rather the legal restrictions is equally restrictive to the user.
2#) They copied the patent clause from apache license, and included the term "patent agreement" to it.
If you do not intend to add technical restrictions to customers owned devices, and you or your business partners don't intend to sue for patents when people use software that you distribute under GPL, GPLv3 will give the exact same legal instructions as GPLv2.
Many BSD projects approves of Apple use of BSD. Apple will add technical restrictions to devices owned by their customers, and Apple will sue for patents if they see a business edge in doing so. GPLv3 and FSF do not approve, and that cause the BSD and GPLv3 to view Apple in different light. If you need to take a "side", feel free to do so, but I won't see either BSD or FSF as evil, nor do I think its appropriate to view their disagreement in that light.
The state impose the fact that there is software patents. FSF don't want software patents. Ignoring software patents resulted in the Novell deal and Microsoft "be very afraid tour". The tour which is explained by (http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9019238/Update_Micros...) and (http://www.patentlyo.com/patent/2007/05/microsoft_foss_.html).
What would the FSF best action be here? The kernel team's opinion seems to be that we should be ignoring the patent situation in favor of contributions from companies who have lawyers who will take the broadest possible interpretation when assessing patent scope. (http://lwn.net/Articles/200422/)
I can understand the kernel team point of view, and FSF. Both is valid approaches, but at the end you got to pick which devil you want to fight against. Currently, I dont see any patent agreements being levied against FOSS users, nor do I see any patent owners trying to claim ownership of the linux kernel. Maybe the GPLv3 patent agreement clause wasn't needed, or maybe the linux kernel is an exceptional project. I will need more data before claiming which "side" is right, or if both are.
I would personally prefer something as destructive as patent be extinguished along with the only institution capable of enforcing it, but that seems like a stretch goal.
I implement all sorts of things personally which I'm only comfortable sharing with friends, which is the real problem. I'm not sure the FSF has any leverage to help people in the free software community freely express their implementations of various restricted technologies.
I have no idea what the FSF should be doing, and it seems they don't have much more of an idea.
However, what seems equally important is data-ownership. If you can't obtain ownership of your own data, what does it matter which software you run?
In that regard, this commment on reddit has some good leads to get started taking your data back from Google:
That Google or any other ad-supported product is free is utter bullshit. There is no free lunch. Advertising simply shifts the cost of the "fee lunch" to the price of the advertised products. But with advertising, it's actually much more expensive:
Cost of thing itself +
Cost of advertising overhead +
Opportunity cost of inferior product +
Cost of our identities and privacy (as bought and sold to the highest bidders) +
Social cost of advertising
The FSFs ardent dogmatism serves a kind of barometric reading of a key segment, but it has little to offer as a "big tent" player in the broader discourse.
> To understand the concept, you should think of "free" as in "free speech," not as in "free beer".
I appreciate the value that free software brings but what differentiates me from the people at the FSF is that I also realize that free software is not a panacea and that closed source, commercial software is a necessary complement to the existence of a healthy ecosystem.
I think this is perfectly reasonable, after getting burned for the umpteenth time by proprietary software vendors. (Or vicariously discovering that yes other people have indeed been burned yet again)
Stallman strongly disagrees with you about that.
Please don't use “commercial” as a synonym for “nonfree.” That confuses two entirely different issues.
A program is commercial if it is developed as a business activity. A commercial program can be free or nonfree, depending on its manner of distribution. Likewise, a program developed by a school or an individual can be free or nonfree, depending on its manner of distribution. The two questions—what sort of entity developed the program and what freedom its users have—are independent.
In the first decade of the free software movement, free software packages were almost always noncommercial; the components of the GNU/Linux operating system were developed by individuals or by nonprofit organizations such as the FSF and universities. Later, in the 1990s, free commercial software started to appear.
Free commercial software is a contribution to our community, so we should encourage it. But people who think that “commercial” means “nonfree” will tend to think that the “free commercial” combination is self-contradictory, and dismiss the possibility. Let's be careful not to use the word “commercial” in that way.
Stallman has always believed that software should not be sold, either directly or indirectly. For example, a quick Google search returned this interview :
> BYTE: A cynic might wonder how you earn your living.
> Stallman: From consulting. When I do consulting, I always reserve the right to give away what I wrote for the consulting job. Also, I could be making my living by mailing copies of the free software that I wrote and some that other people wrote.
The interchange you cite doesn't conflict with this view at all (or if you really think it does, please explain how). First, "selling software" is not the sum total of "commercial software", which is what was being discussed. Second it is not "selling software" that Stallman opposes, first order, but restrictions on freedoms of users to the end of selling software. This should be apparent from the fact that Stallman himself (as is noted in the OP here) sold copies of EMACS back when copying was less trivial. It's certainly the case that triviality of mass copying plus the FSF's "freedom 2" means that it is practically difficult to sell anything but the first copy (because people can simply get a copy elsewhere) but I'd argue that is precisely what Stallman is doing when consulting: selling that first copy.
I'm not sure how you drew that conclusion from that statement. Nothing in there says that.
Often it's not practical to charge for the software itself, because people know they can typically download it for free (as in beer) . In that case, you should charge for consulting. (Which is what RMS does)
There is very little in this world any more completely and clearly false as that statement. Stallman has himself sold software and advocates that others do so too, in fact selling software is one of the freedoms he advocates that must be protected!
"Since “free” refers to freedom, not to price, there is no contradiction between selling copies and free software. In fact, the freedom to sell copies is crucial: collections of free software sold on CD-ROMs are important for the community, and selling them is an important way to raise funds for free software development. Therefore, a program which people are not free to include on these collections is not free software."
That is indeed different than claiming the FSF's relevance, but I think that was the intention.
Necessary? Is that just because it pays salaries?
We have one - Firefox OS from Mozilla: http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/os/
 e.g. see "Firefox with Bing" move last time renewal came up: https://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9221226/Mozilla_Micr...
In the mobile space, a race to bottom of the price point along with operating in China is making it increasingly hard for hardware companies to maintain their IP. Life sucks when your team's design has been stolen.
The "freedom to redistribute copies" and "freedom to modify" aspects of Free software really don't translate well to hardware. There is work and cost associated with copying a board, and much more associated with copying an ASIC (modified or otherwise). It's simply not going to be within the reach of the average user in the forseeable future.
Another factor is rapid obsolescence. Some of the open UNIX software is thirty years old; GCC is about 25 years old. Open hardware will generally have a shorter time before it starts looking horribly obsolete. This is especially true of all the things that people really want to be open: processors, graphics hardware, wireless interfaces.
(You could have an open replacement for e.g. the 555 or LM741, which would be more timeless, but what would be the point? How would it differ materially from the current ones?)
There is certainly scope for "community" hardware development, but that depends on having a stable, sensible community that can agree what it wants and is willing to pay for. Again, requires a lot of work.
What's more likely is interesting SoCs with partially reconfigurable analog blocks and accessible graphics co-processors.
I like your idea.