Richard Stallman, 1st Contact

"It is so, so cool, this gnu thing," I thought.

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.

It takes conviction and passion to change the world. Richard Stallman did just that. Is it a fault to believe too strongly? Not at all. I remain a big fan of FSF and Richard Stallman. Somehow, his preaches and conviction remind me the debates between Protestant denominations. They are all on the same side, yet observers will swear they would rather see their allies perish before the enemies. <script language="JavaScript"> TagStart() Technorati("Richard Stallman") TagEnd() </script>

Comments:

All this is Maya. If you want to be truly and permanently happy, chant 'Hare Krishna'.

Posted by Pierre Cardin on June 04, 2008 at 11:26 AM CST #

U can find many information of open source software,
http://www.52oss.com
increase income and decrease expenditure,support open source software!

Posted by lenno on June 04, 2008 at 11:47 AM CST #

I do not know RMS personally. From my point of view as a Greek Orthodox who try to stick to Christian ideals (though I am a smoker) I find RMS view of FOSS compatible with Christianism. It is also compatible with a society where evrybody works for the good of the society. You do something for the benefit of those who do something for your own benefit. Money (in principle) tries to quantify this interaction, though it is not necessary. The problem arises when misquantification happens. How does closed source fit on this model? It doesn't because it prevents people from improving code (anti-social behavior), you control the benefit of users (misquantification of money,anti-social behavior). However I am pretty sure everybody is aware of this and if you give software as FOSS others will benefit without giving back something. Limit others freedom/benfit before others limit your freedom/benefit. This is the way the society we live in works and this is why it is not human and it never will be. Others consider themselves winners, others (like me) are patient and prey for a position in a human society (possibly after death). Until then I am a proud user o GNU/Linux and PCBSD and I am planning to buy a system to run Belenix. The question that keeps me awake at nights is....

what will you offer for the benefit of others Mr Vasileios Anagnostopoulos (I will have to check out that user space Bluetooth code sometime )

Posted by Vasileios Anagnostopoulos on June 04, 2008 at 12:48 PM CST #

Nice post, Sin-Yaw.

Posted by Mike Dillon on June 06, 2008 at 10:15 PM CST #

Very interesting :) as a big big fan of Mr. Stallman (and emacs and vi) I like to read/see him with OLPC... cool!

Posted by Ido on June 20, 2008 at 06:54 AM CST #

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