Richard Stallman, 1st Contact
By syw on Jun 04, 2008
My first editor on Unix (BSD4.1) was naturally vi, much better than ed that I used before. One day, I went to a senior engineer for his wisdom and was dazzled by his editor. It split the screen into two parts, doing two tasks, without using job controls, at the same time. It was magical. It was emacs. I got to have it.
I ftp'ed, configured for SunOS, make'ed, and got my own shining emacs. I spent the next few years mastering it. I proudly complain the "emacs left pinky" ailment for over-using control key. I learned and wrote lisp programs to customize it. Good old days.
Imagine my giddiness meeting Richard Stallman. The man who wrote emacs. For about 30 minutes, we talked about menu choices from this restaurant we brought him to. He seemed always ready to preach: the fine points in Gnu ideas, the correct ways to refer to Linux (Gnu Operating Systems), the fund raising (books, t-shirts, direct donation), etc. The signature long-hair and full beard provide him with constant distractions: twisting, stroking, twirling, etc. Stallman seems to have a good command on Chinese sounds and use emacs on his OLPC XO (One Laptop Per Child) to record everything.
We have, slightly, different views on open-source and/or free software. Richard has been a proponent for free software (as in freedom) for the last quarter century. He insists that the freedom to distribute, copy, modify, and use all software is paramount to the modern society. He will not rest unless all software are free.
The famed GPL (Gnu Public License) codifies his ideology. Richard believes that if a license allows the licensee to do anything to restrict software freedom, then this license is as evil. Here arrives the strange logic that to grant someone the freedom to do whatever he/she wishes is actually evil, since the licensee may choose to restrict freedom with his/her derivative software. Simply put, if a software let its derivative software to become proprietary, then it is evil. Hmm, at least I am not as radical as High Priest Stallman. First of all, I do not believe all proprietary software are evil to begin with (I am also not sure all software should be free). Secondly, I do not really accept the responsibility of the derivatives. I have contributed to the world of free software community in the past. When I did, I put the software in public domain: no restriction what-so-ever. In theory, someone could have taken my software and create something that is not open or free. I am completely fine with it. But Richard will disapprove (and he did).
Software philosophy is not the only difference we have. Richard has a much cooler headgear, an old PDP disk platter worn as a halo (and matching high-priest gown). My OpenSolaris baseball hat looks so mundane.