rms @ DMU

The Free Software Movement

Our friend Dr Richard M Stallman was on good form for his talk in Leicester and gave a good thoughtful monologue for The Free Software Movement and how he came to embark on his path promoting such a cause. He briefly covered how the combination of GNU (operating system) and Linux (the kernel) came to be (please note the significance of noting “GNU/Linux” as opposed to just using the name of the kernel alone). He then followed on to cover the world of software freedom. We were entertained with a very good portrayal of his St iGNUcius avatar wry sketch, resplendent with his very old hard disk platter 🙂

See: FSF and GNU.org to see something of the great cause.

Myself, I’m somewhat concerned how he appears to be very much the lone voice and the one lone campaigner that is widely known, upon who’s efforts we all depend very deeply, and for something that is almost taken for granted for our freedoms for significant tracts of software upon which we depend. That is all a very stark contrast to the restrictions and lock-in (and enslavement?) with proprietary systems. His view is also uncompromisingly pure that is far beyond the more ‘pragmatic’ views taken by other certain leading figures for Free/Libre software ideals. He gives a convincing argument for how such ‘pragmatism’ is still restrictive and a form of enslavement, and an inevitably fatal compromise.

In true rms style, there was a brief pause for questions and discussion before he rushed onwards to his next venue, with nary a pause. Unfortunately, just as with postcards to home, a parcel of his goodies was lost trailing somewhere behind still in Europe. Hopefully that will catch up with him in time for a following talk…

The Leicester LUG met up in the Swan and Rushes for a few beers afterwards. Very good to meet the group there and there was some good thoughtful discussion. Then, I too had to rush with a mad dash sprint to catch a train back. Thanks whoever it was for the directions! 🙂 And there’s still the “binary blobs” issues and reconfigurable hardware discussions to finish!!

Hopefully we can similarly arrange another rms talk for the Nottingham LUG…


2 comments to rms @ DMU

  • Martin L

    An interesting turn of openness in true The Register style:

    Open source incest: GPL forked by its coauthor

    Will licensing licentiousness rile Free Softies?

    … The new license has been dubbed GPL.next [actually called Copyleft.next], and it’s the brainchild of Richard Fontana, who along with Eben Moglen and Richard Stallman helped to draft the GPLv3, which debuted in 2007. …

    … Fontana has launched GPL.next[Copyleft.next] as a project on GitHub, a collaboration website popular with software developers, and development of the new license will be a collaborative effort. In the welcome text of the GPL.next[Copyleft.next] project, Fontana writes:

    Contributions of patches, ideas, and criticism are welcome. Forks in the GitHub sense are encouraged. The goal of this effort is to develop an improved strong copyleft free software license.

    … Among the problems with the GNU GPL that Fontana identified in his presentation were the length and complexity of the license, the “collapse” of the authority of the FSF, and the shift toward cloud-based applications, which are incompatible with traditional open source licenses.

    Whether a new, independent software license is the answer to these problems, however, is debatable. The Open Source Initiative currently lists 69 different free and open source licenses for developers to choose from – and when it comes to software licensing matters, more is not merrier. …

  • Martin L

    In interesting commentary and idea from rms to try to limit the damage from the present patents/copyright “IP” thermonuclear meltdown that is in session at the moment across the world:

    Let’s Limit the Effect of Software Patents, Since We Can’t Eliminate Them

    Patents threaten every software developer, and the patent wars we have long feared have broken out. … most people – need software to be free of patents.

    The patents that threaten us are often called “software patents,” but that term is misleading. Such patents are not about any specific program. Rather, each patent describes some practical idea, and says that anyone carrying out the idea can be sued. …

    … A Different Approach: Limit Effect, Not Patentability…

    … We could then go back to competing or cooperating, without the fear that some stranger will wipe away our work.

    See also the article:

    Let’s Go Back to Patenting the ‘Solution,’ Not the ‘Problem’

    We already know the patent system is broken. And it desperately needs to be fixed…

    Software and internet patents with extremely broad claims seem to be everywhere these days. The result’s been a raft of lawsuits against companies making any products in this space.

    While patent law aims to promote innovation by giving inventors the exclusive right to their inventions, modern patent law pays far less attention to what the patentee actually invented than to what the patent claims. …

    … Software and internet patents have seen more than their share of such overclaiming. …

    … Congress doesn’t need to enact new laws; it just needs to interpret the existing statute given the realities of software and modern patent practice. As it did seventy-five years ago, the law should rein in efforts to claim owning a goal itself rather than a particular means of achieving that goal. …

    … so, with one fell swoop – without changing the patent statute and without invalidating existing patents – we may be able to solve most of the software patent problem.

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