everything wrong with free software
"obedience breeds foolishness"
=> the-fsf-doesnt-care.html the-fsf-doesnt-care
=> how-to-deal-with-your-raspberry-spy.html how-to-deal-with-your-raspberry-spy
*originally posted:* mar 2021
*updated:* aug 2021
"havent we met before
under brighter skies"
-- the walkmen, "wake up"
update: some of this isnt going to be news for people more familiar with gdb development; it turns out, gdb has actually been under red hat control for quite a long time. the problem of corporate takeover of free software is ongoing, but for this example, its long-standing. whether you give up control or it is taken, sometimes one is worse than the other but the negative result is often similar or the same. this story is another glimpse into the autonomy we ought to have more of. when gavin has more to say about it, this should be interesting.
ibm hat going after control of gnu is an ongoing story; when they launched a coup against the gnu project more than a year ago, 7 of the people who signed the "guix petition" to oust stallman as head of the gnew project were red hatters. what they cant take control of by fraud they will take by attrition-- this is no really different than microsofts tactics, indeed ibm used them well before microsoft.
always they try to make it sound like we are all friends here. there are only "contributors" and "haters", not companies taking control and people rejecting their takeover. but the "hate" is hardly one way, because people from red hat use smears and lies to go after our leaders before putting themselves at the top.
the latest example im aware of is brought to me by gavin rebeiro who demonstrates a serious interest in helping to salvage gnu. but it is necessary, due to various smears and (corrected, still repeated) lies to comment on the situation here with regards to muckrights.
i dont personally want to run the gnu project-- i wouldnt take it if you handed it to me, im not fucking qualified to run that. the idea of me running the gnu project is a laugh. i have NEVER asked stallman to step down from the gnu project, NOR from the fsf board, i have only ever asked him to step down as president, before he was ousted and smeared. and i wanted him to recommend and directly assist a new president-- i figured he would have gone with oliva or ben mako hill. as far as i know, all three of them still have influence and/or voting power. funny how that works.
i deeply resent and challenge the way that my positions on the matter have been twisted around for self-serving reasons at muckrights. i feel confident that this will happen again-- the problem with muckrights is they are very soft on the corruption happening with gnu.
i didnt think they were originally. roy clearly goes back and forth on this, pandering to both sides (not necessarily equally). yes muckrights has covered a lot of important stories, but some of the key stories in this fiasco are spun a bit in a way that i can neither condone nor tolerate. it poses a huge problem for people working to salvage gnu, and ultimately smears good people and helps the ongoing coup-- yes, ongoing. people are still working to take over the gnu project on an official level. more about that in a moment.
the way this is downplayed at muckrights is almost as bad as saying nothing. to cover the story then downplay the significance is a real problem. its alright to have different points of view, but when people demonstrate the desire to continue to control stallman in his present position, and we watch gnu continuing to be sold off to corporations piece by piece, i would rather have this story covered without spin-- in depth, with attention to detail (and even corrections where they are needed).
so im not interested in dancing with muckrights, ive had my toes mashed on firmly and theres no apologies for it at all. i dont consider it an honest mistake.
not that i want to make this story about muckrights, id like to get on to the heart of the matter. however, i think it will come up soon. when we work to salvage gnu, muckrights may decide that pageviews matter more than facts or context.
muckrights can have the credit for making #deletegithub a thing-- they were doing that before i was. the work to show how much of gnu is under this threat, thats my work-- my research. anybody could do it, but saying that was a collaboration was a stretch. im interested in knowing exactly how much compromise of our freedom is being made. muckrights is papering over that, ripping it down and papering over it again. i can only speculate as to why. trying to share credit for the research while downplaying the findings is a serious problem, hence the effort to point out how serious the spin really is on this matter.
but when it comes time to gauge how bad things really are, i welcome honest debate and useful information-- whether it means things are a little worse or a little better than we thought at first. with regards to gnu, muckrights cant always tell a legitimate concern from a troll at this point. thats too bad, but thats more their own problem. to say the very least, we differ on how crucial this problem is. so be it-- i dont write for them anymore.
as for this latest story, full credit to gavin for finding this, i wasnt watching it. hes the one who spotted it. im actually going in pretty carefully to find out what this is and isnt, and if we are mistaken thats great, we can reassess.
either way, it seems clear that modestly forking gnu for the sake of freedom from monopolies is a good way forward. theres no reason gnu cant be modestly forked-- some people are working on redoing gnu in rust (terrible idea) and there are all sorts of other extend and replace efforts. maybe if at least one of them was actually about putting things back in users hands...
i have argued in the past that its better for gnu to stay a top-down effort even if the free software movement doesnt and i stand by that, (it probably wouldnt even be mentioned unless i brought it up first) but that only works as long as corporations dont find their way to the top. as i have said before, stallman is the head of the gnu project and the queen of england is still the queen of england, but a lot of that power is only symbolic. if either tries to use it, the world can see how far that really goes.
if stallman is really in control, why do pieces of gnu CONTINUE moving to corporate hosting? hes against that. and if knauth isnt a sellout, why doesnt he speak out against this? i mean, he could say something on his github account... and if stallman isnt really in control, what the hell are we supposed to do? beg them some more? thats worked so well so far!
the goal of gnu is to keep in users hands the very things that red hat wants to take control of by extending it until it depends on corporations and produces lock-in. this is a very serious problem that calls for a very serious solution.
if people are willing to say its a problem, thats great-- but if their idea of fixing it is begging a corrupt 501(c)3 to start listening, when we are soon coming up on 20 PERCENT of the fsfs existence (thats a little more than 7 years, you know) where they have allowed this to only get worse and not improve... thats NOT a solution.
then they go and paint more serious efforts as troubling or maybe treacherous. there are indeed some treacherous efforts, but this isnt one of them. if you compare the plans for gnew with red hats plans for gnu, theyre like night and day. but thats only if youre doing an honest comparison. im not silly enough to expect that to happen at this point.
also for the moment, information about gnew is admittedly scarce. but that will surely change if it moves forward. sometimes even im waiting to learn more, though i went over the contents of this article with a gnew developer.
meanwhile, muckrights puts their trust in someone who constantly apologises for and cheers on pragmatism or corporate takeover while smearing people who are more serious about freedom. often they demonstrate serious concern about a real issue in irc, only to downplay or flip flop in articles. i dont know this muckrights. its not what i support, but some of the information is useful. theyre good at getting to information first, but what you do with it also counts.
as i said, 7 people from red hat signed the petition to overthrow the leadership of the gnu project. microsoft was (as muckrights points out) on the table as a buyer for red hat, i predicted that-- ibm got them instead.
we already know about gnu moving to (and depending on so many things that are on) github. its impossible to avoid, but that is precisely why it needs to be resisted. lock-in is something freedom has to resist. instead, people keep apologising ("sorry, not sorry") for handing the keys to gnu over to microsoft-- and to red hat, whose devs already tried to take over gnu development over a year ago.
for the moment, we are researching this. but we do have troubling information. in particular, the wikipedia page (this is gavins finding, im still boycotting wikipedia) says the repo for the gnu debugger is:
my first thought is "of course thats a mirror, right?" but im still familiar with this game. shifting development from non-profit repos to corporate repos isnt something we should take lightly. when these are companies known for attacking both free projects and leaders with patents and smear campaigns, the concern should be much higher. this is about corporations taking control, NOT about contributing. its about as much of a contribution as a bank foreclosing a mortgage.
if muckrights wants to downplay that or attack people for trying to fix that, they can eat the loss of credibility. but these are still real problems, not hypothetical ones. this is still an ongoing coup, but we can hire lots of pr people to say things are alright. the problem is image over substance and lies over context, but you know a pr company can fix that too.
again: this is not the first shot fired as far as red hats takeover of the gnu project. as far as gnu is concerned, ibm and microsoft are not "friends" but theyre certainly willing to join forces against us; they can fight over the spoils later. ibm and microsoft are two different companies, both put control of community work over immediate profits, and in some ways (only some ways, sometimes) they act almost like a single entity in this campaign.
this is at least the third effort red hat has made to foist their control onto the gnu project, but they already control trisquel and trisquel is perfectly alright with that because theyre absolutely crap. trisquel is a bad joke and they dont give the slightest damn about freedom, they have spent the past 5 years selling people out. theyre only and at best better than say, debian or fedora in that regard. but thats something that needs to be fixed with real efforts to give control back to users (rather than monopolistic corporations).
this is presently light on details. perhaps we will be scooped! but i sooner expect others to cover the story and ultimately downplay it. they dont have to, and i dont know why they would do.
instead, they could just do journalism with honest commentary and integrity, and that would be alright too. we cant help solve this problem by just doing nothing and asking if its okay with sponsors to fix it. thats been done for half a decade or more-- it isnt working at all.