everything wrong with free software
"obedience breeds foolishness"
*originally posted:* mar 2021
*updated:* aug 2021
the thing about subtle fuckery, is that its subtle. maybe its the wind, maybe your own footsteps.
but when you stumble into a wall, you have a pretty good idea its there.
there were many times i had a concern about muckrights, though it was all in the context of what i knew-- i put my cards on the table, roy put his cards on the table, we did our thing, and its all for a good cause.
what could be the problem? in that context, from that point of view, finding fault seems ridiculous.
so you take your concerns, and you shelve them.
eventually, the shelves seem to have a number of small things nagging you. but its certainly not enough to be sure that anything is wrong. so you give that a sideways look, and eventually you go on about your business.
muckrights is inspired largely by groklaw. so says its primary author. and theres some good stuff there-- the enemy of my enemy is my friend, and here marches roy, against the corporations. as long as youre buying that, everything is cool.
when youre fresh meat, its just great to be part of it. i was looking for a place to talk about some of these problems, and while other venues are closed off to many of the topics muckrights is willing to cover, muckrights of course-- is happy to discuss them. what surer sign could there be that this is the right place?
and its one of the few places like that-- i couldnt even tell you what the alternative is supposed to be. alright, so here we are! okay, were. after a couple years i got tired of the bullshit and left.
or tried to leave. today i spent some time consolidating the list of complaints ive had about events from december of last year through the present. and really, the impetus behind this story, is that march is here and-- theres a new chapter.
previously, i documented the openly hostile, shamelessly dishonest crap that was posted over a period of six weeks or more to wave me off after my departure. roy just couldnt say goodbye, he had to poison the well. i even said to him (and this is public record, due to his policy of cutting and pasting MOST emails into irc, which he then logs) that because i was pissed off when i left, he might think i was going to try to "poison the well"-- really, i just wanted to fucking leave.
and the reason i said this, is it appeared roy was trying to preemptively do the same. as ive documented, i told him to knock it off, that i just wanted to leave, and to stop the bullshit. he did-- for about a week, after which it started again. and then he doubled down. then he tripled down. he didnt just poison the well, he kept it topped off for some ridiculous reason.
after a while, i finally made this website. the bullshit continued. things that had fuck-all to do with me would cause my name to be brought up. then one my name was brought up, the bullshit would start. you cant blame false assumptions or honest mistakes for any of this, id corrected the bullshit. roy just wanted to have his story, factual or otherwise. then he wanted to repeat it whenever something like-- oh, stallmans email autoresponder came up. because when you think of stallmans autoresponder, OF COURSE, you immediately think of me!
there is ample evidence that roy knows this website exists, which ive documented. lately, things are finding their way from this website to his, and that by itself is amusing. i talk to gav, we do nothing about it, it has to get out of hand before anybody says anything.
its gotten out of hand.
after leaving because i was feeling slighted, i wrote these tips because i was feeling used:
their purpose is simple: help others avoid the problems i encountered. it seemed unlikely anybody would benefit, because they would have to find them first, read them, and assume they had merit.
but i also assumed they were sufficient, and now roy is proving that wrong.
so begins a new chapter on the problems of, by, with muckrights-- and i think to be fair, the tips are still helping. they provide additional evidence that something is fucked up, even if they do not prevent it.
ill say this for roy, when faced with a challenge, he just runs headlong into it. when people are tired of his bullshit and dishonesty, he just runs headlong into it. ive literally told him-- knock it the fuck off. zero fucks are given!
i told roy to leave me the fuck alone, in december. i put an absolutely reasonable qualifier on this-- i said, explicitly, look-- what we do, theres no way to promise silence. just stop the bullshit. im not interested in fighting muckrights (and indeed, i was not) i just want to leave. i can find the actual quote, its available.
it didnt stop there. we are way, way past that. eventually it got so ridiculous that i started this website, but except for documenting a small part of what had happened and keeping track of new things being done at my expense, this site was NOT eager to focus on muckrights. only the most egregious nonsense was touched-- mostly things relevant to the things id been given shit for.
there are so many people who claim to be activists, who care more about the shmoozing and the "glamour" (granola as it is, but check out the ballrooms the zemmy foundation will rent out, for fucks sake) than the cause itself. and roy, with his various beat-up hand-me-down screens and dodgy consumer-grade broadband, doesnt look like hes in it for glamour.
all i can figure is hes in it for the pageviews.
because if it was about honesty, he wouldnt smear other actvists who arent doing anything worth his "treatment" and arent interested in going after his shit, but just piss off already-- youd think roy would have the good sense to piss off.
after all, hes not a schmuck just in this for a personal platform and metrics, hes an activist. he has integrity.
after the past few months, i doubt it. but just to stay sane through all this bullshit, i keep documenting the lies and the crap. and there is a pattern that probably even roy hasnt noticed.
alright roy, we wouldnt be here right now if youd just shut the fuck up and left me alone. you had to go smear me to random people, relentlessly, you had to smear me to one of my personal fucking heroes-- here you go, arsehole.
as i said, lately roy has taken to lifting ideas from here-- which i encourage, generally speaking. these ideas are designed to be spread, theyre licensed specifically for reuse (even creative remixes) and i want to be absolutely clear that this has fuck-all to do with copyright. it has nothing to do with ownership of ideas.
basic integrity is sometimes more complex than copyright, otherwise maybe we would just do basic integrity and skip all this legalistic bullshit. i dont think the lawyers have to worry about that happening, but there it is.
then there are cultural differences. but you can probably be a douchebag in any language, and thats what this is really about.
its about increasing levels of douchebaggery, each a little harder to believe than the one before it-- but its getting easier!
first: i asked roy to piss off and leave me out of this stuff. he did, for a week. he went right back to it then. he never really stopped-- eventually i started this website.
next: he kept building on his bullshit story, which i corrected so theres no chance it was a misunderstanding.
when the raspberry pi story broke in february, gav and i talked about solutions. roy posted the quick fix, which is great, but installing openbsd or (probably) netbsd would have prevented this in the first place. weve been talking about how gnu/linux is compromised (no, its not quite that simple, but sometimes it is) for 5 or 6 years, all in the hopes of something improving. it hasnt, and some of us have basically given up and moved on to the prospect of other free operating systems.
if we can remove the non-free firmware and add copyleft, openbsd is probably the most free operating system there is. saving anything with the linux kernel doesnt seem like its in the cards.
i had credited muckrights from the start for breaking the story, as some other websites werent doing that. gavin pushed me to add an actual url, so i found the one that was most relevant (probably the first one). gavin did an entire paper on installing bsd on the pi, with the goal of redistributing it via p2p. so he gave me links for that purpose, and wrote an initial story / page / teaser explaining what the links were for:
=> how-to-deal-with-your-raspberry-spy.html how-to-deal-with-your-raspberry-spy
the page gave credit to both roy and muckrights as well as myself and ewwfs, and he also gave it to roy to publish.
most of the links actually went to muckrights pages, but one went to ewwfs. all roy had to do was do what i did-- publish the pdf. but he also wanted to make the whole thing into html, which i knew he would do, and somehow he managed to butcher the links on the first page.
you know, like the one that went to ewwfs.
i dont figure that gavin was as amused as i was-- for one, hes trying to promote this p2p distribution for the purpose of circumventing web censorship. roy might not get that, and he relented and linked to / published the pdf itself later. the pdf contains the link to ewwfs, so whatever.
personally i thought it would be interesting to see what happened to the ewwfs link. but another less amusing effect was that it made it look like the entire thing was written specifically for muckrights:
[09:30] Hi, I've got a bit of a correction regarding one of your
news items: https://soylentnews.org/article.pl?sid=21/03/08/2145220
[09:30] ^ The Ongoing Raspberry Pi Fiasco - SoylentNews
[09:30] I'm the author of the "How To Deal With Your Raspberry Spy" paper
[09:31] It is a PDF document available on Libgen:
[09:31] ^ Library Genesis: Gavin L. Rebeiro - How To Deal
With Your Raspberry Spy
[09:32] The paper wasn't originally a piece on Techrights. I
just sent a copy to the people that run Techrights.
[09:32] Techrights decided to rip a lot of the links out of the
first few chapters so people can refer to the original PDF version of
the paper for everything.
[09:34] <+FatPhil> you need to take that up with techrights, we have
no insights into what they do before they put stuff up.
[09:35] FatPhil: Ofc, I don't have control over what people do
with my paper when they decide to share it. I just wanted to point
people to the original paper available as a PDF document.
[09:36] <+FatPhil> HAve they violated your CC-BY-SA? "Attribution —
You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and
indicate if changes were made."
[09:38] It appears that they have.
[09:39] For example: http://techrights.org/2021/03/05/raspi-paper/
[09:39] ^ How To Deal With Your Raspberry Spy -- Part I:
[09:39] "Summary: March 2, 2021 blog post series from a guest author;"
[09:39] This is untrue
[09:39] I sent them the link to the PDF on Libgen
[09:40] They've been obscure about this. It wasn't a blog post
series. That's what Roy from Techrights changed my paper into.
[09:40] That is why the soylent news piece probably says
"Developer Gavin L Rebeiro has posted a five-part article series at
[09:41] I don't post anything on Techrights myself.
[09:43] So it seems Techrights have only complied with the "You
must give appropriate credit" part of CC-BY-SA 4.0
[09:45] But anyway. I don't intend to kick up any dust over the
license. It's meant for free sharing. I just wanted to make the minor
[09:46] If someone could edit the soylent news piece, that would
be much appreciated.
[09:47] <+FatPhil> I've added a note to the story (will take a few
minutes to pass through the cache)
[09:47] FatPhil: Many thanks for the quick fix.
[09:48] <+FatPhil> np. looks like you were wronged, and it would be
wrong for us to propagate that!
[09:49] <+FatPhil> if it had just been something cosmetic, or you
wanting to add the link, then I'd have just recommended posting to the
so we are clear:
1. it made it look like it was written for muckrights, which it wasnt
2. it left out the libgen link (added later) which was important
3. this seems like it was probably all done to borrow credit (for muckrights) or deny it (to ewwfs)
and im not that worried about the ewwfs part. its funny how roy continues to pretend ewwfs doesnt exist. im almost grateful for it.
even if it ended there, this story wouldnt be here.
you have the six-week smear campaign, you have the "borrowing" credit, you have the missing or mangled links, then there is the most likely motive for those-- without the rest of the context, this would easily be filed under "oops" and lets just fix it-- if only it was as easy as dealing with fatphil! (but then fatphil seems pretty straightforward).
lets take a look at section 3.4 of gavins paper:
> You should be the operator of your computer, not a “user”. A “user” is effectively being “used” because they are treated like stupid consumers that get dictated to by other people. Don’t fall for this “user” trap. Be the operator of your computer; take back control; education is the true path to computing freedom.
i know where gavin got this, he was explicit about it. this is from february 15:
> It goes back to the idea of your argument "operators instead of useds".
im happy that hes using it. he also says at the beginning of the paper:
> A big thanks also to the founder of Everything Wrong With Free Software (EWWFS); EWWFS did a great piece on the Raspberry Spy that is worth reading:
> • maybe-dont-buy-a-raspberry-spy
> I originally got the inspiration for this paper from the creator of EWWFS. Much support and encouragement was provided during the research and development of this paper from EWWFS.
thats more credit than i need. roy and i both use "useds" (as a noun) from stallman. "operators" are the opposite of useds.
i dont own the word. but then i find stuff like this, and not for the first time:
> What It Means to be a Free Software Operator, Not a User or Consumer
> Summary: A lot of people lack control over computers (or small computing devices) that they purchase and it’s getting worse over time
yes, it is getting worse. which is why some of us are trying to fight that directly. and then when they do, they get told: (this is from a week ago)
> schestowitz__ I think this should not be out #1 concern Mar 08 19:20
> schestowitz__ we can deal with systemd as vendor lock-in later Mar 08 19:20
later? its been half a decade! note that more than THREE YEARS ago, i said to him:
> ...for years and basically consider you a fire hose of useful information in a land of garden hoses, though one thing that really threw me for a loop was your apparent lack of concern about systemd. well, we cant all agree on everything, right? you must have your reasons. but then! in this (2 month old) interview, you (you?) said...
> To see my views on systemd see what I write in gnusocial.de/twitter/diaspora. I was never a friend of it, but I didn't want techrights to lose EPO/patents focus by writing about it (except daily links/picks).
so whatever "later" means, it means more than 3 or 5 years. maybe hes not a "friend" of systemd, though hes certainly tolerant.
basically he just says whatever, theres so much if-by-whisky with muckrights.
so what roy is doing, is taking the language that gavin and i use to talk about how to liberate people from the same foes that roy talks about in the article: ibm and microsoft, then he *waters it down* until it loses half its meaning, and uses it to promote his website.
this is A LOT like what open source does to free software. it borrows all of free softwares ideas, then uses them to put corporations back in control.
then we try to fight against open source, and roy takes our ideas and uses them to KEEP ibm and microsoft in control.
then they leave in disgust. then he talks shit about them. then they tell him to piss off. then he smears people and lies about them.
then when other people start taking a page from their book, (being quite welcome to do so) he mangles and borrows and waters down-- and continues to exploit the work of others AFTER they left for his twisting around what they said when they contributed to muckrights directly!
so no, the tips for muckrights contributors are clearly not enough. you also have to be prepared for roy to borrow whatever you do, twist it to his purposes, keep people from the original for comparison, and act like all this is a contribution in and of itself.
its not the first time, ive been there too:
> schestowitz *No, we counted* Jan 08 15:43
> schestowitz *less than a dozen* Jan 08 15:43
> schestowitz *out of hundeds* Jan 08 15:43
> schestowitz *and we want to keep that number small* Jan 08 15:44
as i say on that page:
> half the story again! i was the one who counted the hundreds of projects, but you notice that when i want to say something that im "*someone who penned some pieces* /hosted/" on muckrights, but when roy wants to paint a rosy picture of *gnu*hub its "*we* counted" when the fact is i did dozens of hours of research which he did almost none of.
but now we know im not the only person getting this sort of "vip" treatment.
by all means, contribute to muckrights and have your own work twisted around to be used against you!
who can say "no" to a deal like that!
as ive said, there were other situations like this in the years i was there, apart from the "bsd" article there was a "misunderstanding" over (i was told) that was "flippant" about (others were told) when really, roy was just bullshitting.
> When I wrote my paper, I made sure to clearly signal ALL the Muckrights links at the very start. This made it obvious where I found out about the story from.
> Alongside the Muckrights links was the EWWFS link. I wanted to acknowledge EWWFS as inspiration for the paper.
> How do I get repaid for this? Muckrights announced my paper in the most misleading way I can think of. Instead of clearly linking to the PDF at the start of their derivative works, Ron just shoved the PDF link in the most obscure place I can think of. This is the kind of integrity and treatment I got from Muckrights, after how much respect I gave it as a source in my paper.
> Thankfully, the soylentnews editor FatPhil was understanding about Muckrights' BS and fixed the soylentnews piece.
> Smuggling a link in the most obscure place you can think of to hide the full original source from your readers doesn't paint you in a good light. Muckrights deliberately violated CC-BY-SA 4.0 by withholding the original paper from readers at the start of their "blog post series".
i cant speak for gavin, but for me, formality is a secondary concern. honest mistakes and misunderstandings are not generally a big deal to me.
its the pattern of what muckrights has done with our work, the arrogant and spiteful response to our concerns, the general willingness of muckrights to USE its contributors in a way that leaves roy with no business talking about "useds".
but he certainly is a smooth "operator".