everything wrong with free software
"obedience breeds foolishness"
other pages: [[why-bsd]] | *originally posted:* feb 2021
richard stallman, founder of gnu, the fsf and the free software movement, defines "sainthood" in a tongue-in-cheek representation of his own ideals as a life of purity:
"Being holy in our church means *exorcizing whatever evil, proprietary operating systems have possessed computers that are under your control, or set up for your regular use; installing a holy (i.e., wholly) free operating system (GNU[lit]/[lit]Linux is a good choice); and using and installing only free software with and on the system*."
his concept of freedom is defined in the *free software definition*, while a wholly free operating system is outlined in the *free software distribution guidelines*, which unfortunately have an acronym (fsdg) that is an anagram of the debian free software guidelines (dfsg). ive tried talking about both for an entire article, its a lot of fun.
but what it comes down to (among a few other things) is *removing the non-free software from your computer*. if you try this with windows, you get reactos but you certainly wont have windows. if you try this with macos, you get a kernel and some parts of freebsd-- but you definitely dont have macos.
i use software, and i want to use software. but freedom, while being a real thing and certainly as vital as the human spirit (in whatever context of the word you think such a thing exists-- none at all, if man has no will to be free) is by necessity a philosophical construct.
when it stops being a philosophical construct, there is no way to tell if you are "really free".
the free software definition is *good philosophy* in the sense that its accessible, testable, actionable and has produced real benefits. when you go looking for efforts that have produced more real benefits, you find many pretenders to the throne and many fakes and cynical gestures. accepting imitations is a popular thing to do, but windows ought to demonstrate the problem with conflating popularity and freedom.
the free software definition is a good definition, but for the sake of argument, lets assume for a moment that it doesnt go far enough. how far could we go in terms of removing software that "subjugates the user?" and would we be better off if we tried?
the amish for example, for the most part do not use software. like many religious groups, they have various sects with different levels of observance. their stereotypical lack of electricity use is not a guarantee that any assumptions we make about the amish will be sound, if we base those assumptions on not using electricity or other forms of modern technology.
for example, we might like to assume that the amish would never use gmos-- but this is not a safe assumption. surely the amish would never use a computer, but this is based on a misunderstanding.
from my understanding of the amish, their desire is to stay off a grid, and away from being controlled by people outside their community. being on an electrical grid (or a telephone grid) is thus undesirable, but some of the less strict communities may run an electrical generator-- electricity itself is not the issue.
likewise, some amish communities may have a cell phone kept for certain uses on the edge of town. but you wont find them on facebook or twitter, or charging a smartphone on a portable generator or solar panels.
ive met people who desire to avoid "modern technology" altogether, such as computers of any kind, and perhaps this will make them less vulnerable to surveillance initially. certainly if you care about privacy and civil liberties, carrying a smartphone around (or any phone with a battery connected to it) is a bad idea. i know one person who keeps his phone in a faraday bag. ive personally never owned a phone that didnt have a back that could be removed to take out the battery.
but does that put a stop to surveillance? it certainly helps. it does nothing about satellites, drones or floating surveillance platforms-- all of which exist and can be used to track the human race the same way scientists track animals. we can track the amish just as well as the people on facebook, if thats our goal.
the difference at least is that the amish are doing something proactive, whether or not it gives them privacy. *they are not participants* in their own (unconstitutional, civil rights violating) mass surveillance. there is certainly something to be said for that.
*it would be nice if we could say that same about gnu[lit]/[lit]linux*. unfortunately there are many things being done to that platform that make users *less free* on a "wholly free operating system" than they used to be. *since the cost of freedom is eternal vigilance*, you would think that the free software foundation, or at least the free software /movement/ would care about this.
i used to use trisquel, because it *was* the best wholly free operating system that the fsf endorsed. at the time, i was literally a card-carrying member of the free software foundation. today, i make fun of trisquel, because *i dont think they care about your freedom at all*.
in fact, users have complained for the better part of a decade that trisquel needs to do something about various issues that plague free software, and trisquels response is to ignore and ridicule those people. trisquel thus earns the ridicule it gets in return-- for abandoning its mission.
of course if you are content to freeze in time your concept of what freedom is, while monopolies like microsoft and google and ibm work around that concept to subjugate the user more creatively, you deserve scorn for being superficial and *paying lip service to freedom*.
it shouldnt take half a decade for these issues to be taken seriously. but thats what happens *when freedom is not vigilant*.
trisquel (just as one example-- im not saying theyre alone in this) *doesnt care* if youre being surveilled, as long as the source code is free. *you* are "free" to completely remix the distro and "turn off" the surveillance, all you have to do is either go upstream and change another project that doesnt care about your freedom, or alternatively create your own fork of trisquel-- *piece of cake*.
of course what im definitely not saying is that trisquel has to do whatever users tell them to do. thats a straw man of what im saying-- and a popular one in this sort of conversation.
rather, i challenge the notion that trisquel or the fsf gives a damn about your freedom at all. *i certainly believe they did*, but we know that there was a coup at the fsf. and during that entire time, there was denial about it. so there *was* a coup, we know this for a fact from reliable sources-- but we also know we were lied to (or nothing was said) for a very long time while that took place.
so now when they say everything is alright, things are under control, stallman is still in charge, i say: "okay, so where are the renewed efforts to *reestablish freedom and fight user-subjugation?*" theyre coming, real soon now.
what do i *typically* see after such promises are made? further pivoting from *advocacy* to *marketing*. theres a huge difference.
*advocacy* pushes things like *reform* and *positive change*. while *marketing* pushes a *product*.
free software *was* about freedom, and *freedom is a process*, not a product. to have freedom, you have to regularly evaluate, examine, challenge your notions.
*products* are the opposite of that. *marketing* is about convincing, coercing, nudging people to put their concerns aside and just get out their wallets. *a frozen concept of freedom* is a much easier product to market than a less cynical, more self-renewing effort to keep the user free. in fact everything about it is easier and cheaper, because it simply entails far less.
thats the fsf we see today, and its the fsf weve seen for years now. *but this is about software*, not the fsf.
and its about how free you can be, in modern terms that harken to the beginning of this movement, rather than the middle or whats happened to it more recently. so let me share my journey in the form of a timeline:
1993: this is the first time i hear about "the internet", which is already decades old. by now ive used a bbs and without a more adequate description, i dont understand the difference between the internet and other computer networks.
1994: "gopher" is still more important than "the web". i probably havent heard of either yet. im using dos and windows 3.1.
1995: this is the year the web starts to gain popularity. microsoft comes out with windows 95, but except for a new shell i dont get what the big deal is. i dont love the new shell yet. i have no usb ports.
i believe this is the first year i hear about "linux", and i really want to try it.
1995-1996: this is the first time i access the internet. all the internet cafes were using macs, though i refuse to go online until its on a pc. (still good with that decision). i think the first time i pay for internet use on a public computer is 2004.
1998-2002: at some point i get a floppy with tomsrtbt on it. now ive actually used linux. feel free to tell me whether i was using gnu[lit]/[lit]linux or not, but i think tomsrtbt had either busybox or a precursor to busybox. either way, linux is a kernel. i have tried the beta version of mozilla. i have tried to install red hat and i have installed mandrake.
2004: i have windows 98 and pygmy linux installed on the same partition. i can boot to gnu[lit]/[lit]linux from dos. as with tomsrtbt, red hat (which never actually ran past installation) and mandrake, i cant get it to do much. i have used firefox.
2005: i get a copy of ubuntu and run it. it is far too slow on my hardware. i run it on a friends computer. i still have dialup internet, they have dsl; i download lots of distros and try them. i try to find a new isp that supports gnu[lit]/[lit]linux. i can get online with dos, but not with gnu[lit]/[lit]linux.
i have a program i created that runs in dos mode, which disables system files (com, exe, dll, vxd, vbs) by either reversing the extension (dll -> lld) or flipping it inside out (exe -> xex) when you highlight it on a list and hit enter. when news of a vulnerability comes out for a windows component, i disable it and look for a replacement. for example, when a dll needed to display pdfs in windows has a vulnerability, i disable it and look for a free software replacement.
2006: i find puppy linux while looking for monkey linux. i get it to boot from dos, like pygmy does. puppy doesnt work with any of my network hardware, not even the ethernet port. which i can only use on a laptop, because i still have dialup.
2007: i have highspeed internet. i migrate my 98 machine to dsl and my xp machine to xubuntu, i am windows-free.
2009: i try sugar, then trisquel. i learn python. i switch to fully-free distros. eventually debian moves to a fully-free kernel. i switch to debian mostly.
2010-2014: i have a lemote running gnewsense. im running debian. im giving away free computers with debian on them. something is wrong with debian testing.
2015: im running devuan. i write my own programming language. im hoping to give away devuan computers. *id like a source iso like the one i copied onto every debian machine i gave away.*
note that devuan is from dyne, founded by the author of fsf-approved fully-free distro "dyne:bolic". talk of making a fully-free devuan exists, but i know systemd will never be free except in terms of the license.
2016-2017: im creating automated remasters of puppy and refracta (devuan live distro) written in my own programming language.
2018: microsoft purchases github. i predict the purchase of red hat by microsoft, and it goes to ibm.
i use my automated remaster script to make isos of *debian live* and *trisquel live* with sysvinit and upstart instead of systemd, respectively.
trisquel does not care about freedom, the prospect of systemd-free trisquel (even as an alternative download) is of no interest to them. the prospect of an automated tool to remove systemd is of no interest to them. granted im not there to sell it-- im there to prove whats possible. they either care about your freedom, or they dont.
2019: along with others, i predict stallmans cancellation based on torvalds and libreplanet-- it happens months later. "free as in speech" indeed. *the fsf does not care about freedom.* in fact they start censoring their mailing lists of any pro-stallman emails.
2019-2020: at some point two people suggest i join the fsf board. i recommend someone else who i think is better suited to it.
2020: in pursuit of a github-free distribution, i move to tiny core ([[do-not-use-tiny-core-linux]]) and finally to bsd. *i gave gnu[lit]/[lit]linux more than half a decade* to straighten itself out, and went above and beyond in my efforts to help it do so. but all it wants to do is sell out to ibm and microsoft.
*ibm and microsoft.* theyre the same assholes i was trying to get away from in 2004!
if you read the halloween documents, they read more like theyre about 2015-2020 than the time they were written in. theyre all about microsoft taking over gnu[lit]/[lit]linux and exploiting it.
osi used to mirror those on their website. the fsf still mirrors them on their website.
*the fsf knew*. *osi knew*. and when it actually happened, they did *nothing* to stop it.
thats not freedom. thats *selling out*.
i still believe in freedom, but freedom is a process. and today, "free software" isnt a movement, its a *product*. thats why the fsf is fake, and stallman is in *hiding*. literally in hiding. trying to run the fsf "from the shadows".
but even if we stuck a giant parabolic mirror on the moon, and tomorrow a beam shone down from luna to cambridge, mass, and stallman stood under it and proclaimed a new dawn for free software: [url]https://www.fsfla.org/ikiwiki/blogs/lxo/pub/new-dawn.en.html[url]
i have to say: *what about the past 5 years?* what about all the lies told to users? what is going to be done about half-decade-old threats to user freedom?
and when is *trisquel* going to apologise for being fake, cynical and stupid?
the answer is, most likely, *nothing*.
fuck your five lost years of software freedom, give us your fucking money, and stop asking stupid questions.
theres your freedom.
or, we are going to have to do a lot better than that.
honestly, we owe it to ourselves. speaking personally, i didnt spend years migrating from dos and windows and years trying to help promote and create viable alternatives to using red hats user-shackling crapware, just to end up back under the cynical thumb of ibm and microsoft.
nor did i pay the fsf to lie to me about it and cancel their own founder.
some people still have the audacity (actually, microsoft github has control of audacity) to think its my job to support lies and a definition of freedom that leaves people under microsofts control.
*when they knew*, 20 years ago, that this is exactly how microsoft wanted to take over free software.
open source is a scam. free software has gradually turned into that scam as well.
i support freedom, but i do not (and i will not) support this scam. *if you expect me to do that*, after all of this, youre fucking nuts. *youre asking me to be as cynical about freedom as you are*.
richard stallman is the true and only father of this movement. im afraid though, that the free software movement is his bastard child. it looks nothing like him anymore, the apple has fallen too far from the tree. in fact, it looks more like ibm. do you people even know who ibm is? *ibm taught microsoft everything it knows* about screwing over users!
if we really want stallmans legacy to live on, i think he will need to be cloned instead-- get some of his dna back into what we do.
either way, id rather encourage people to turn gnu into gnu[lit]/[lit]bsd, than watch free software decide that linux is the hill its going to die on.
if free software was really making a comeback, they would be much more supportive of that cause of action.
if trisquel gave a damn about your freedom, they would be working on (or at least encouraging) that as well.
most people who say they care about your freedom, really only care about *the letter of the law*. thats all the fsf is *demonstrating* anymore. the *spirit* of free software is barely alive, and the people who keep it alive deserve far better support.
those are the leaders who are doing stallman justice-- not these old poseurs who treat freedom like a gimmick, or a hairstyle, or *just a brand*. thats useless, and will only put you back in the clutches of the same monopolies free software (ten years ago) would have helped to get you away from.
*if this is really a new dawn, it needs to be different*. not entirely different! but different than the same crap weve had for the past 5 years. a true dawn for free software in 2021 or later, will address and correct the past 5 (or more) years of user subjugation. what do you think the fsf will do?
therefore i challenge the rumour that stallman is really in charge at all. hes certainly at the helm of something, but i dont know if that ships bearing heads towards anything remotely like freedom. are you absolutely sure youre steering free software, chief gnuisance? or is that really just a freedom simulator?
make no mistake, i am deeply sympathetic-- at least i sincerely believe so. i make fun of the traitors, i dont think its funny that weve all (including the founder) been betrayed.
/though im not the first king of controversy
i shatter windows, and show no mercy
i rewrite unix entirely
then use it to make freedom healthy
heyyyyy! heres a concept that works
another thousand distros emerge
but no matter how many fish in the sea
it would be so non-free without me
gnus not unix
*gnus not linux*
gnus not unix
*gnu is free*/