everything wrong with free software
"obedience breeds foolishness"
=> why-bsd.html why-bsd
*originally posted:* mar 2021
*updated:* aug 2021
free software world war 1 is over, this is a momentous day in computing history.
it needs to be said that this was the only right thing to do. stallman was ousted under false pretenses-- that was never acceptable.
of those who protested the decision, one of the greatest demands we made (if not the greatest, but i cant think of a bigger or stronger demand among them) is now granted-- or at least will be, if he is reelected president. i have never wanted him off the board, and it looks like a distinct possibility that he will be president again. that would corroborate some of the things i was told by people in the fsf, that i was too sceptical to believe.
its much too early to say what will come of this, but its not too early to point out what this most likely will not change.
one thing that its safe to say is that i will never support the fsf again-- lesson learned. no matter how this turns out, the fsf has spent years dicking around with both members and their money. they just awarded a monetary prize to the person who worked hardest to oust and smear richard stallman. what will stallman do? be nice to him, most likely. its his right, but i dont have to approve. but remember it though, when people try to paint stallman as petty. hes more magnanimous than most of you, or i.
nor do i expect stallman to salvage the gnu project from microsoft, though we can certainly mention that ive been wrong before. along with others, i predicted stallmans ousting-- as well as the purchase of red hat, and these were important (if unfortunate) moments in the history of the movement.
i have referred to this time as the free software dark ages, and speculated about the coming of a free software renaissance "someday". does this mark the beginning of that renaissance? i couldnt tell you.
i dont doubt for a minute that pride is a component of this when i say that i remain sceptical. but even if thats a bad reason, there are also good reasons to be sceptical, which i will share now:
one is that i didnt start lobbying the fsf to change its ways after the stallman ousting, but before. two of the factors that led to my own belief that stallman would be ousted were his appalling treatment and smearing at libreplanet, a year before his resignation-- as well as the fact that similar happened to torvalds. my misgivings about libreplanet go all the way back to when i was a supporter of the fsf-- and i never thought they would come so spectacularly true as to prove consequence to stallman himself. the real coup started at libreplanet, not mit (though mit are bastards, and hypocrites of the very worst sort).
as you know, torvalds came back-- changed? maybe not for the better. certainly "better" by someones standards, but not for the kernel itself. today, the linux kernel is practically owned by microsoft, although they have not let it slip into githubs monopolistic abyss as of yet. the vultures are circling, theyre even on the board, but torvalds is back after all. not that torvalds was ever a very upstanding guy. he was always kind of a douchebag, and when he "came back" it was as a douchebag demonstrating more tolerance for corporate bullshit than before.
more explicitly, i wrote an article last year entitled "the real richard stallman is not coming back"-- that may yet remain true, or perhaps this is the beginning of that article being disproven.
i would rather be correct than consistent, and if upcoming events prove an article i wrote in 2020 contains inaccurate predictions, im alright with that-- there are many other things ive written which some people will be concerned were incorrect.
as ive said many times, being wrong was indeed my preference. its good that stallman is back on the board. it will be good if stallman is president again. thats the way it should be. before the coup proper, my wish was for him to choose a successor, not to be slandered and thrown out without ceremony. as ive said many times, he is the true father of the free software movement. the fake and scam-like open source mov-- whatever it is-- owes everything to stallman and only shits on the man (stallmans own words, years ago: "they treat me like shit").
and they do. now many of those people who treat him like shit will begin further insinuating themselves into the new/old/updated regime, and many of the problems that existed before will likely continue to exist.
one thing you should definitely not think is that i should be happy. as i said, i had grievances regarding the fsf that predate the coup proper. i still have those.
ibm still has an unwelcome hold on gnu via systemd, pam, dbus, etc.-- guix (and shepherd) do not solve this; guix turned traitor during the coup and i will never trust or support them, not even if stallman does. i call them "duix" (heres a hint, its NOT pronounced "deex"). shepherd is an init system, though systemd is fundamentally something else (a cuckoo egg os we are all meant to maintain as serfs per the wishes and demands of corporations) and guix relies on elogind, from github.
linux is still and will forever be a politically compromised kernel, which is why i do not support gnu/linux anymore. but gnu IS NOT linux, and bsd (like gnu) is not technically (or legally) unix. i continue to support the concept of gnu/bsd as a way forward from the linux kernel quagmire that has dragged free software along in various unwelcome directions, as much as it has helped.
the fsf is still fuck-awful at listening to members. member money will still go towards dreadful things, including handing out the free software award (along with money from a source that i would like verified as being money coming from members) to the worst past and future traitors to free software.
it goes without saying that regime change, for better or worse, will not change everything. only foolish optimism or naive superficiality would lead anybody to believe otherwise.
but beyond this, this is only one of the things i considered necessary for the fsf to put things right.
at this point, there are too many wrongs to reconcile or rebuild trust. trust is not easily established, but easy to lose. it is not negotiable, and you cant just download the source for trusting an organisation and compile the latest version; it is natural, organic and at times more complicated than most software.
yes, its better that stallman is back, but i am still done with the fsf itself. and they will most likely demonstrate zero accountability for the wrongs of the past few years, as is typical. the way the fsf behaves is as though they are completely entitled to donations, to trust amidst corrupting influence, to answer nothing and do whatever they please without a proper explanation, no matter what it is.
i cannot stand the fsf, and the fsf is no richard stallman. i admire him and a great deal of his work and advocacy-- i do not admire his organisation. i do not intend to bestow any further legitimacy on it, not if stallman himself legally changes his name to "the free software foundation". i would simply call him the chief gnuisance.
note also that i was concerned for some time that they would bring stallman back as a puppet, as a cartoon, as an icon they could feed words to and have it come out of its "mouth" (metaphorically speaking). given our experience with torvalds and guido, that concern is now diminished, surely-- but it is not trounced yet.
we will have to wait and see what comes of this, but i will still advise people not to assume that everything is alright now, just because the most egregious wrong is partially righted. instead i would compare this to sony and their 2005 rootkit scandal. i have boycotted sony ever since then, regardless of the fact that i now use an operating system that is immune to that rootkit, and that it is no longer part of sony products. similarly, my operating system does not contain the privacy flaw that microsoft recently coaxed into the raspberry spy os, but the conduct of the organisation makes it a product that i continue to boycott.
nor should you read this as i think its stallmans job to fix everything. i believe the responsibility rests on a number of people. and just yesterday, roy was saying that the award given to kuhn suggests the coup is not fully finished. before he reverses his position (or direction) once again, i want to say hes probably got a point there.
this does not mean the coup is over, it means that some of the damage has finally been properly addressed.
the fsf has a long way to go. either way, it can continue to do it without my support. my interest in free software does not involve the fsf anymore.
all the best to the father of free software, may he pull the fsf out of its decadance and show the world how to salvage a corrupt and co-opted 501(c)3 organisation. if anyone is up to the task, he is.
as to what i was mistaken about, i am certainly intrigued by the news. i await the return of the "real" richard stallman, the leader who stood for what is now the agpl, who stood against secure boot, who told people not to move gnu repos to github (although they didnt listen, and continue to betray us all to microsoft).
we could certainly use more people like stallman around. at the very least, i am pleased that he once again has a platorm from which to set his example of freedom to the world, even if it is the fsf. but i definitely wont be sending donations, nor encouraging anybody else to do so. it isnt like that. we arent all "friends" now that theyve allowed the man back into his own fucking house.
please do not turn this into me saying that stallman is the only person that matters, stallman ought to be the supreme dictator of everything. i do not follow him in that regard, i am not advocating such extreme obedience.
lots of people matter. stallman happens to matter quite a lot, given that hes the source of the things many now take for granted, or try to take a disproportionate amount of credit for. for a while now, people have been eager to neglect that fact. i intend to place my trust in them accordingly. how stallman responds to them is his own business.
as i was saying in 2020: long live stallman, and happy hacking.
may rms also return to the free software foundation.