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GNU is Not Unix Open Source Privacy Software

RMS On Why Free Software Is More Important Now Than Ever Before 319

Posted by Soulskill
from the we-need-the-power-to-make-those-birds-less-angry dept.
jrepin points out an article by Richard Stallman following up on the 30th anniversary of the start of his efforts on the GNU Project. RMS explains why he thinks we should continue to push for broader adoption of free software principles. He writes, "Much has changed since the beginning of the free software movement: Most people in advanced countries now own computers — sometimes called “phones” — and use the internet with them. Non-free software still makes the users surrender control over their computing to someone else, but now there is another way to lose it: Service as a Software Substitute, or SaaSS, which means letting someone else’s server do your own computing activities. Both non-free software and SaaSS can spy on the user, shackle the user, and even attack the user. Malware is common in services and proprietary software products because the users don’t have control over them. That’s the fundamental issue: while non-free software and SaaSS are controlled by some other entity (typically a corporation or a state), free software is controlled by its users. Why does this control matter? Because freedom means having control over your own life. ... Schools — and all educational activities — influence the future of society through what they teach. So schools should teach exclusively free software, to transmit democratic values and the habit of helping other people. (Not to mention it helps a future generation of programmers master the craft.) To teach use of a non-free program is to implant dependence on its owner, which contradicts the social mission of the school. Proprietary developers would have us punish students who are good enough at heart to share software or curious enough to want to change it."
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RMS On Why Free Software Is More Important Now Than Ever Before

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  • by lesincompetent (2836253) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @04:16AM (#44984201)
    I dare anyone, especially after mr. Snowden's revelations, to contradict mr. Stallman's points.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 29, 2013 @04:26AM (#44984237)

      Well I'll give it a go:

      One could perhaps have an entirely free software stack on ones phone. Your service providers could use free software for all the servers they run. Everything could be free software everywhere.

      But, how does that stop them (the guys running the servers) having access to all of your information you have stored on their machines?

      It could all be free software and they could still spy on you.

      • by kthreadd (1558445) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @04:31AM (#44984251)

        No one can stop them except you. If the entire chain from you to them is open then you will be able to see what information they might get from you and chose to not use their services.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Wootery (1087023)

        You've made no mention of crypto. Crypto is what stops 'them' getting to see your data, not software freedom. Non-Free/closed-source crypto can never be trusted, though.

        It could all be free software and they could still spy on you.

        Not if this Free software was implementing proper end-to-end crypto.

        Of course, in practice there might be issues with trusting them to be running the code they say they're running.

        • by tepples (727027) <tepples AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday September 29, 2013 @05:21AM (#44984375) Homepage Journal

          Crypto is what stops 'them' getting to see your data

          End-to-end cryptography won't stop "them" from seeing with whom you communicate, how often, where, and when.

          Of course, in practice there might be issues with trusting them to be running the code they say they're running.

          Things like "trusting trust" are why David A. Wheeler invented diverse double compiling [dwheeler.com]. Take two or more independently developed compilers, preferably Free ones such as such as GCC and Clang, and bootstrap a compiler in all of them. If the end result of both bootstrap processes is the same binary, the resulting compiler is overwhelmingly unlikely to be booby-trapped.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by VortexCortex (1117377)

            Ah, and then you realize that the resultant compiler produces the same output because perhaps the Ken Thompson hack is in the CPU Microcode, as Ken suggested. Furthermore, that since he got the idea from the US Air Force back before his ACM acceptance speech (in 1984), than such hack could be in essentially all the CPUs you'd purchase.

            Fortunately for me, I spent my childhood tinkering with electronics and discovering compiler design without any mentors... I know my brain doesn't contain the Ken Thomps

            • than such hack could be in essentially all the CPUs you'd purchase.

              I don't see how such a hack could be embedded in a computer built out of discrete gates, such as the Apollo Guidance Computer or Kevin Horton's NANDputer [slashdot.org]. A chain of bootstraps starting at this sort of discrete logic could provide even stronger evidence that your compiler and login executables aren't boobytrapped. Besides, major revisions to the compiler would likely break the backdoor detection in existing CPUs.

              Now we're working on a really big (noisy) Tetris game with contractors and LEDs

              I wonder what Henk Rogers and Alexey Pajitnov would think [slashdot.org].

          • by Lumpy (12016)

            "End-to-end cryptography won't stop "them" from seeing with whom you communicate, how often, where, and when."

            It can if you have a clue how to. For example, Stenography in a photo. if EVERY SINGLE photo you post on facebook has a 2048 byte sample of /dev/random shoved inside of it, they will never know that the photo of the shaved cat actually holds a 2048 byte encrypted message in it.

            It's called hiding in the noise floor, you just need to raise the noise floor.

            plus with the proliferation of Social me

            • if EVERY SINGLE photo you post on facebook has a 2048 byte sample of /dev/random shoved inside of it, they will never know that the photo of the shaved cat actually holds a 2048 byte encrypted message in it.

              Which is part of why the telcos have introduced capped data plans. If it takes a 204800 byte page with a photo on it to send a 2048 byte message, you've just reduced your cap by 99 percent.

          • by Mashdar (876825)

            Maybe if you performed no optimizations you could do this. Modern compilers would almost never output identical binaries these days, because the compiler is secretly making your code not suck for the architecture.

            • Bootstrapping means compiling a compiler with itself. For example, if you have compiler A and the source of compiler X, you compile X with A to make XA, then you compile X with XA to make XXA. Then you compile X with B to make XB, and you compile X with XB to make XXB. XA need not match XB, but XXA must match XXB bit for bit because they're both compiled with X.
          • by ultranova (717540)

            End-to-end cryptography won't stop "them" from seeing with whom you communicate, how often, where, and when.

            Use Tor or Freenet and make them transmit everything in fixed-size (padded if necessary) fixed-frequency bursts, encrypted of course. Keep every communication channel constantly saturated and if becomes impossible for an attacker to know when they're actually in use.

            In the long run, though, we have to build mesh networks. The current semi-centralized model with its ISPs makes it too easy to tap or cu

          • " If the end result of both bootstrap processes is the same binary, the resulting compiler is overwhelmingly unlikely to be booby-trapped."

            No, if the end result is the same binary then you have woken up in a different universe [wikipedia.org]. The two binaries will never be identical.

      • by turbidostato (878842) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @06:36AM (#44984575)

        "But, how does that stop them (the guys running the servers) having access to all of your information you have stored on their machines?"

        So exactly making the second RMS' point: beware service as a software substitute.

        • by beelsebob (529313)

          That's not service as a software substitute. No software could magically connect you to the other side of the world, that requires a service.

      • by schnell (163007)

        Very true, but it goes beyond that. This:

        free software is controlled by its users

        ...is the worst piece of misinformation in Stallman's essay that is continuously repeated on Slashdot and elsewhere. Free software is controlled by the people who write it and to a (much) lesser degree by the people who are willing to read and edit the source code before compiling it and installing it. If you're Richard Stallman, congratulations! The "user" does turn out to control the software. But for 99% of the world, that's just not true, and the only value in "f

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by FPhlyer (14433)

      Stallman's arguments are purely philosophical for most software users. Software as a service, aka "Cloud Computing" is becoming and has become a standard for most computer users... even if they don't recognize it. Free Software is not going to reverse that unless you find some way to pull yourself off the grid... no internet, no cellular service, no land line service, etc. The entire infrastructure is open to attack and running Free Software to interact with the rest of the world doesn't insulate you from m

    • by znrt (2424692) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @06:39AM (#44984587)

      I dare anyone, especially after mr. Snowden's revelations, to contradict mr. Stallman's points.

      his points have actually little to do with snowden's revelations. if you want to be in control you need also absolute control over the hardware (down to every circuit in every chip in every device). open software alone will never protect you from government snooping or from corps selling you as big data meat. and even if you could have fully open hardware, you would need a society that knows how to use it and cares. thats unrealistic. the problem snowden reveals is sociopolitical, not technolgical. it's about actual power abuse, not about the possible means for abuse.

      although i agree with most of his points because of the intrinsic value open software has for society, mixing both issues is shortsighted, sounds a lot like usual fear propaganda, just in another context.

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      Ok. How can I, as in Me personally, TRUST FOSS? Right now there are no third party Open source groups, not even the FSF that is carefully reviewing it to see what backdoors or other nefarious spying functions are added already.

      I honestly see this as an opportunity for FOSS to rise to the top quickly. They need to be publicly certify that their OS is not compromised by the NSA or other faction.

      Until then I assume that Linux and BSD are as compromised as Solaris,OSX, and Windows.

      • by flyingfsck (986395) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @07:28AM (#44984795)
        You can trust Free software the same way that you trust that a road and a bridge over a river is good. Lots of other people in front of you are using it without problems and various maintenance crews are doing their level best to keep the road open and all road construction and repairs are visible to anyone driving past.
    • by rasmusbr (2186518)

      I dare anyone, especially after mr. Snowden's revelations, to contradict mr. Stallman's points.

      In an economy that runs on a monetary system software projects that are able to attract and maintain larger revenue streams tend to win over software projects that are able to attract smaller revenue streams. Software as a service has shown to be superior in terms of generating revenue to software running on the client's computer for many (but certainly not all) applications. There is by the way a lot of theory that argues that monetary systems are superior to other economic systems.

      So then it's kind of lik

      • by ultranova (717540)

        There is by the way a lot of theory that argues that monetary systems are superior to other economic systems.

        I very much doubt that seeing how "money" is just a convenient one-number summary of the concept of "resource usage" which all economic systems by definition have, because economy is all about managing resources. So the statement doesn't really make sense.

        Perhaps you meant capitalist systems? In which case, yes, there's a lot of theories arguing their superiority. And plenty of theories arguing the

  • congratulations (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kwikrick (755625) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @04:27AM (#44984241) Homepage Journal

    Thank you rms, for fighting for our freedom for 30 years!

  • by Joining Yet Again (2992179) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @04:38AM (#44984279)

    One thing the FSF's licences haven't dealt with properly is the problem of Free software being used to TAKE control rather than GIVE it. Most of the huge SaaS providers are running Free software, adapted as they will - but with code not distributed, because it doesn't need to be as long as they're not distributing their proprietary platforms - and with all your data on their systems. Should the GPL be adapted to deal with that? Could it?

    Maybe the FSF need to prepare a set of terms to explain what counts as adequate vs inadequate control over systems and data - to be more clear about e.g. how one could prepare a 'phone ecosystem which leaves control in the hands of the user. For "server" to be a person's home computer rather than Google's cloud would perhaps be a start.

    • by kthreadd (1558445) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @04:41AM (#44984285)

      That certainly is seen as a problem, and the AGPL is supposed to address the loophole. Adoptions isn't that big though, although some large players like Oracle uses it for certain software packages like for example Berkeley DB.

    • by vux984 (928602) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @04:41AM (#44984291)

      Should the GPL be adapted to deal with that? Could it?

      You mean this:

      http://www.gnu.org/licenses/why-affero-gpl.html [gnu.org]

      Yes it can and has been adapted for that situation.

      • by KiloByte (825081)

        Freedom 0: The freedom to run the program for any purpose.
        Affero: you're not allowed to use code from it in an IMAP server, a networked lift control, etc. Ergo, it's not free software by FSF's own definition.

        Affero is nothing like the regular GPL. The latter imposes no real burden other than a bit of disk space and/or bandwidth, the only restriction is that you can't add new restrictions. You are allowed to use GPLed code in any situation, and can only be not allowed to distribute it if some third party

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      One thing the FSF's licences haven't dealt with properly is the problem of Free software being used to TAKE control rather than GIVE it. Most of the huge SaaS providers are running Free software, adapted as they will - but with code not distributed, because it doesn't need to be as long as they're not distributing their proprietary platforms - and with all your data on their systems. Should the GPL be adapted to deal with that? Could it?

      Maybe the FSF need to prepare a set of terms to explain what counts as adequate vs inadequate control over systems and data - to be more clear about e.g. how one could prepare a 'phone ecosystem which leaves control in the hands of the user. For "server" to be a person's home computer rather than Google's cloud would perhaps be a start.

      Uh, please look up the GNU Affero GPL. [gnu.org] It is intentionally one-way compatible with the GNU GPL 3.0.

      So saying "One thing the FSF's licences haven't dealt with properly" is uninformed bullshit. Like with any licensing choice, it's a tradeoff between freedoms to use and freedoms to abuse. But the abuse case is important enough to the FSF that they do offer this licensing choice and make it possible to employ it in connection with GPLv3-licensed software.

  • Every time I read an RMS opinion, it seems to start at a good position and consistently attempts to be more and more idealistic to the point that he seems to be arguing a strawman

    .

    So schools should teach exclusively free software, to transmit democratic values and the habit of helping other people.
    Malware is common in services and proprietary software products
    To teach use of a non-free program is to implant dependence on its owner, which contradicts the social mission of the school.
    Proprietary developers would have us punish students who are good enough at heart to share software or curious enough to want to change it.

    I know he defines Malware differently from the common way (he considers DRM as malware, for example), but democratic values are less likely to be transmitted if I use Office? Proprietary developers want to punish students? I guess he means the corporations - and again, they don't generally give their source for modification, so

    • Re:Goes too far (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Internetuser1248 (1787630) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @04:58AM (#44984329)

      but democratic values are less likely to be transmitted if I use Office?

      If you are a teacher, yes. If you learn office at a young age, it becomes very unlikely you will switch to anything else. It can be difficult for some people too, as the interface is different. Once the students go home and have to set up their own computer they will likely use office. They will either pay for it or not pay for it. If they don't pay they are committing a crime which can be severely punished if they get caught. If they pay then the school is basically training them to give money to a large corporation. Not only that, a specific corporation, with a partial monopoly in that market. Evidenced by the fact that you write 'Office' with a capital O and take it as a given that everyone knows you mean Microsoft® Office®.

      Training kids to give money to support a monopolistic corporation does not seem to be directly in line with the principles of democracy.

      • Re:Goes too far (Score:5, Interesting)

        by deviated_prevert (1146403) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @06:04AM (#44984477) Journal

        but democratic values are less likely to be transmitted if I use Office?

        If you are a teacher, yes. If you learn office at a young age, it becomes very unlikely you will switch to anything else. It can be difficult for some people too, as the interface is different. Once the students go home and have to set up their own computer they will likely use office. They will either pay for it or not pay for it. If they don't pay they are committing a crime which can be severely punished if they get caught. If they pay then the school is basically training them to give money to a large corporation. Not only that, a specific corporation, with a partial monopoly in that market. Evidenced by the fact that you write 'Office' with a capital O and take it as a given that everyone knows you mean Microsoft® Office®. Training kids to give money to support a monopolistic corporation does not seem to be directly in line with the principles of democracy.

        This does not limit the abuse by monopoly to just school children! Our very first "home computer" was purchased so that we could become more literate in the coming "digital age". We had a 6 year old daughter and my wife and myself both needed to use fax for the purposes of both getting work and communicating. So we spent 2000 dollars on a decent 486 which could run "Windows" on top of dos. We both had used Vax at work for years and now that it was obviously being dumped and we knew that the "Windows" gui was going to dominate the very future of both our working lives. My wife insisted upon the then brand new Office which set us back another huge chunk of change and took for freaking ever to install from the set of floppies! When we upgraded the unit to the "start me up" roll me over and take it in the rear year 95 version of "Windows" our old version of office would not install PERIOD. So this was my first desperate and financially crippling experience with MSFT. We were almost bankrupted by this at the time because of health issues that occurred concurrently, so I pirated WORD so that we could still fax and my wife could keep her work communications up.

        THIS EXPERIENCE SOURED ME so much against MSFT that I investigated what all the fuss was online about Red Hat. After a really good dummies book showed me that our old terminal skills could still make our older 486 work online (good old ifup ip foobar commands) and even do faxes by simply sticking in a different modem than the Win Modem we had things started to look up and the experience brought me into the light. I have never looked back. OR may I add have never "pirated" anything since!

        IT WAS a revelation reading Eric Raymond and watching the antics of RMS, Linus and others, the one great rhetorical statement that always sticks in my mind and I am never going to forget is "WOULD YOU BY A CAR WITH THE HOOD WELDED SHUT?"

        With companies like Corbis, and others trying to deprive and lock down the world to its very own shared historical great heritage of images online one comes to finally understand the true Ferengi like nature of those who like Milo Minderbinder with a computer have come to dominate digital communications. Do they deserve the laurels and accolades that are heaped upon them. Only history will tell, but if the young are left to believe that they are saints chances are we are headed into a digital dark age.

        Thank you RMS and all the others for keeping up the good fight!

        • by ray-auch (454705)

          the one great rhetorical statement that always sticks in my mind and I am never going to forget is "WOULD YOU BY A CAR WITH THE HOOD WELDED SHUT?"

          And yet, for every car I've had for the last 10-15 years, I have never opened the hood for anything other than putting in screen wash or checking oil (and maybe once in 20yrs to access the battery for a jump start) - put those on the outside and I would have no need. Otherwise I just open the hood and think "I don't even know where to start on this", close it again and take it to a garage. It's not that I don't know how an engine works or haven't stripped down and rebuilt one before - it's that modern one

          • Re:Goes too far (Score:5, Insightful)

            by flyingfsck (986395) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @07:38AM (#44984847)
            Yes, but since the hood is not welded shut, you can take your car to ANY garage: The dealer, Wal-Mart, Canadian Tire, the old scoundrel down the street... That is the freedom that you get with Free software. You can fix it yourself, or pay someone of your choosing to fix it.
          • And yet, for every car I've had for the last 10-15 years, I have never opened the hood for anything other than putting in screen wash or checking oil (and maybe once in 20yrs to access the battery for a jump start) - put those on the outside and I would have no need. Otherwise I just open the hood and think "I don't even know where to start on this", close it again and take it to a garage. It's not that I don't know how an engine works or haven't stripped down and rebuilt one before - it's that modern ones are orders of magnitude more complicated, higher precision, lower tolerance, and shoehorned in so tight that it looks like if you don't have exactly the right tool at exactly the right angle you are going to have no arms left after about three bolts.

            And yet we buy these cars (in their millions) ? Why ? Because they are ten times more reliable than the ones we had 20-30yrs ago, and getting under the hood just is not as necessary anymore. "It just works". Are we any less free because of this ?

            Same goes for software, I've modified my kernel, back in the 0.99something days. I think it had about 100 KLOC. Today Linux is what, 15 MLOC ? Over 100 times the size. Sure, in theory I can still get under the hood of the kernel, but in practice at 15 MLOC I am not going to touch it - it would never be economic.

            Then on the services thing, if it was cheaper to get a taxi everywhere than own a car, would I own one ? Maybe for nostalgia reasons, but then again maybe not. But would I expect to be able to open the hood of the taxi when it turns up ? Do you ? Are you less free because the taxi driver doesn't let you under the hood of his taxi ?

            I am afraid you have obfuscated the reason and meanings of what I posted. And certainly WIndows and Office has been anything but reliable over the years. The vendor lock in and obvious logic bomb planned obsolescence nature of Windows and "Office" is the whole reason why I learned to use and maintain OSS software. My current IBM laptop that I am writing this on will not run Windows 7 or 8 PERIOD, but it will flawlessly run some of the latest non pae capable Linux kernel based distros and all the truly great

          • by knarf (34928)

            It's not that I don't know how an engine works or haven't stripped down and rebuilt one before - it's that modern ones are orders of magnitude more complicated, higher precision, lower tolerance, and shoehorned in so tight that it looks like if you don't have exactly the right tool at exactly the right angle you are going to have no arms left after about three bolts.

            Not really. Modern engines are not that much more complicated, they've just had loads of sensors and actuators added in odd locations. In some

      • If you learn office at a young age, it becomes very unlikely you will switch to anything else. It can be difficult for some people too, as the interface is different. Once the students go home and have to set up their own computer they will likely use office. They will either pay for it or not pay for it. If they don't pay they are committing a crime which can be severely punished if they get caught. If they pay then the school is basically training them to give money to a large corporation. Not only that, a specific corporation, with a partial monopoly in that market.

        All true. But public schools are exactly the kind of bureaucracies that love getting locked in to proprietary stuff. RMS here is fighting some very natural tendencies of the system.

        • For how long though? How long do schools need to pay for a WORD PROCESSOR? How long until this is considered a baseline function of any computer? The idea that they now want to now RENT us the wordprocessor is utterly amazingly stupid. Word should be done and closed and free. Sell all the extraneous functionality that only 5% uses as enhancement packs.
    • Re:Goes too far (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Halo1 (136547) <jonas.maebe@NospAm.elis.ugent.be> on Sunday September 29, 2013 @05:40AM (#44984415) Homepage

      Every time I read an RMS opinion, it seems to start at a good position and consistently attempts to be more and more idealistic to the point that he seems to be arguing a strawman.

      RMS definitely is radical, but I've never known him to use strawman arguments.

      I know he defines Malware differently from the common way (he considers DRM as malware, for example),

      I guess he's also talking about backdoors for law enforcement (aka "legal interception") and other purposes.

      but democratic values are less likely to be transmitted if I use Office? Proprietary developers want to punish students? I guess he means the corporations

      His explanation indicates why he does mean proprietary developers rather than just corporations: e.g. in the US definition of core democratic values [classroomhelp.com], there are aspects like personal freedom (e.g., modifying software) and the common good (e.g., sharing things with others). Note that he's not arguing here that it should be illegal for others to write proprietary software, i.e., he's not arguing to impinge on other people's liberty.

      - and again, they don't generally give their source for modification, so they might be preventing students from modifying other people's work. Is that punishing them?

      It limits the possibilities for expressing their creativity. Schools should be places where encouraging creativity is one of the highest valued goals. I know that is generally not the case [ted.com] right now (amazing video, btw), but this is a (small) way in which the situation can be improved.

      I won't even claim to understand what the social mission of schools are supposed to be - prepare students for functioning in society?

      I'm obviously not RMS, but I'd argue they should be prepared for functioning in society, for critically thinking about that same society (and anything else), and for contributing to a society that they consider to be better than what it is today.

      Prepare them for jobs? Prepare them for college? Prepare them to develop free software?

      I'd say: prepare them to become the best they can be. That can include a particular kind of job, being an artist, college (about which you can have very similar discussions as about school), developing free software or any combination of the above and many more things.

      Prepare them for ignoring copyrights?

      Now that last part is a great a strawman on your part: encouraging students to use Free Software, which they can share and modify freely according to the copyright license terms of that same software, is by no means the same as preparing them for ignoring copyright. It mainly teaches them that there are also alternatives to software whose business model depends on artificial scarcity. They will get to know MS Office and other popular products anyway, and if you can work with OpenOffice or LibreOffice, the jump isn't that great in any case. Maybe one of the primary things schools should teach are transferable skills (of which creative thinking is probably the "übervariant").

      • by CODiNE (27417)

        How about demand scarcity verses supply scarcity? The classic argument is that proprietary software uses artificial scarcity to maintain high prices. To fund the development of software with limited demand projected prices must be set high enough to justify the cost of building it.

        True the bits don't cost anything and copying is unlimited but resources to develop don't become unlimited as well. I'd love to work on the GiMP or Inkscape but don't see many job opportunities for it at the moment.

        Also what if in

    • Proprietary developers want to punish students? I guess he means the corporations - and again, they don't generally give their source for modification, so they might be preventing students from modifying other people's work. Is that punishing them?

      I'm guessing you've never read and understood the various EULAs that you've agreed to through the years. They generally prohibit reverse engineering and modification of the code, which, contrary to popular opinion, can be done without access to the source code. I've done it myself, back in the days before EULAs. For example, I once modified a popular 16-bit compiler so that it would utilize 32-bit native integer multiplication and division opcodes, thereby greatly speeding up the code it generated, at th

    • by ray-auch (454705)

      Every time I read an RMS opinion, it seems to start at a good position and consistently attempts to be more and more idealistic to the point that he seems to be arguing a strawman

      .

      Malware is common in services and proprietary software products

      Ironic given that possibly the most prevalent and insidious malware that exists _in_ other products (as opposed to existing in itself and using other products as a vector) would now appear to be the backdoors placed in encryption algorithms by the NSA et al. Malware emplaced in open, free standards and widely implemented in both free and proprietary software. Free and open software spectacularly failed to prevent or detect that - as you say, it's a strawman.

      To teach use of a non-free program is to implant dependence on its owner, which contradicts the social mission of the school.

      Schools should _never_ teach a single _anything

  • Losing the battle (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kjella (173770) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @05:43AM (#44984427) Homepage

    While proprietary software won't always do things the way you want them for normal applications you could always restrict their permissions, firewall their network and most importantly unless you had a very serious leak built in the data stayed on your own computer, it might be locked up in a proprietary format with software that has forced obsolescence but I always felt the hyperbole was a bit thick. If you buy a CD you buy the mix the artist wanted you to have, you don't get the raw tracks to remix it the way you wanted it to be. Likewise when you buy a closed source game you get the game experience they wanted you to have, not all the source and assets to remake it the way you wanted it to be. All other things being equal it'd of course be desirable, but it's doesn't make it worthless or immoral to buy it without that possibility.

    With "Service as a Software Substitution" as RMS calls it or as web services and the cloud as I'd call it you've got no control at all of neither the software nor the data. You can't even do the slightest change in how it works. When they want it to change, it changes and there's nothing you can do to stay on an old version the only thing you could do is to go nuclear and stop using it at all. Getting the data out and over to a competing service is often far worse and more locked up than a proprietary format. And again, they control your data. I'd be far more concerned about all my documents being on a Google Docs server somewhere than in a MS Office document on my disk under my control.

    The worst part is really the way you're tied not technically to their service though, but legally. When the iTunes app store tells me they've updated their Terms of Service and asks me to answer yes or no, it's basically "Would you like to continue using your phone as normal or totally cripple all access to new software and updates?" I don't even bother reading it, it's accepting at gunpoint anyway. And I really don't feel it'd be much different with Android and the Play store. It didn't concern me much when it was primarily so I'd have a phone to play Angry Birds on (see above) because I totally don't care where my scores go, but as you start wanting to use it for more serious things it matters but there's really no opting out.

    The stupid thing is that I really do like advantages of cloud syncing, I'd just like it to be against my own private server or at least in a local colo of my choice. I don't want to route it through Apple or Google or Facebook or any of the other big megacorporations. But what we need is a solid alternative, not the wailing song of RMS. He could have complained about the lack of a free kernel forever but as long as HURD wasn't an alternative it just didn't matter much until Linux came along and became usable. Give us a real alternative, based perhaps on AOSP or Ubuntu Touch (ugh) and maybe we can turn the tide. P.S. There was a poll here, 90% wouldn't change their online habits one bit after the Snowden revelations - don't assume the general public is with you.

    • by Rich0 (548339)

      I think that FOSS is really missing the boat on the cloud and SaaS.

      There is nothing wrong with the cloud per-se - it is just a hosting model. The problem is that our typical licenses allow cloud providers to benefit from FOSS without giving back. FOSS authors tend not to spend much time writing cloud-ready software as a result.

      If i want to use a web-based email client there really aren't any decent FOSS options available to me. They all are VERY weak in comparison to something like Gmail, and lack all th

  • The free software principle is sound but the implementation leaves something to be desired. The issue as I see it is one of resources and the ability effect change. Without a complete plan to deal with the pressures outside the scope of free software it is sand castles and it ignores the larger issues which are integral in maintaining any advance made. It is more a statement that describes a vector direction without the means to generate force toward the goal.
    Stallman offers no solution to the core proble
    • by AHuxley (892839)
      The ~Loongson ~CPU exits, the OS and surround application code exists. People have a place to start, they can build on and give back.
      Where did growth get average users via the big trusted global brands? The ability to generate plain text for govs after a user selects/wants to encrypt.
      After all the years of 'growth' 'passion' 'art' 'fun' 'funding' 'wealth' and all the other generational buzzwords of closed brand name software, free software still shines with the simple reality of been: fit for purpose.
      • There is no doubt that free software has done enormous good and I use it, support it, write it and publish it. I thank you for the reference to Loongson as I was unaware of this. My issue is with the future and it is all well and good to get to the castle gates with pitchforks but once you have taken the castle you must have a plan that maintains the ideals. There are other technologies that can help maintain personal freedom like 3D printing or personal energy systems. I suppose one advantage that free so
        • by AHuxley (892839)
          Great, productivity, freedom, creativity and truth will always win out over DRM and mass market fake encryption :)
          All the best with your projects and products like Loongson will gain traction too :)
    • Red Hat is doing fine and that is just one example of a Free software company - there are many.
      • I have used Red Hat for commercial systems and yes there are many good examples of community supported software that function. I know that progress has been made. My opinion is that the overarching problem can't be solved with the same approach.
        I can't stay off the Kikuyu as it is invasive and is now taking over my lawn too.
  • if the NSA/CIA/FBI forces companies to put backdoors and hand over master-keys to encryption methods for both internet connections and locked files & disk drives then if the Government can get in them i am sure criminals can find them and break in too
    • Why do you write as if the people in the government who are doing such things aren't criminals? I'd say they're the ones you need to fear most of all.

  • ...Sunday morning to give a shit what RMS has to say, despite my immense respect for him and his beard. But I think his point can be beautifully illustrated by the Self-Destructing Cookie plugin going off every second blowing away another cookie from some website or the other called "ip2info.org" that I don't recall telling that it could set cookies (and I blew away my mozilla/firefox $HOME config dirs last night and set up everything fresh, so I know exactly what sites I've been to in the past 9 hours), s

  • by jbn-o (555068) <mail@digitalcitizen.info> on Sunday September 29, 2013 @10:21AM (#44985621) Homepage

    Slashdot is currently running this story with the logo of the Open Source Initiative—an organization RMS has never been a part of, did not start, and which offers a different philosophy that does not agree with the philosophy of the older free software movement Stallman did start [gnu.org].

    I don't know why someone would make the choice to run this story with the wrong logo attached to it, but I hope Slashdot will correct the error. It is still unfair to misrepresent RMS's opinion [slashdot.org].

For every bloke who makes his mark, there's half a dozen waiting to rub it out. -- Andy Capp

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