Richard Stallman: Exclusive Interview for LxA

Richard Stallman during a conference

Richard Matthew Stallman (or "rms") needs no introduction, it is a fabulous programmer from which programs such as the GCC compiler, the GDB debugger and even the Emacs editor have come out. He is also known for his GNU project and for being the inventor of the "copyleft" concept. But if Richard Stallman is known for something, it is for being the founder of the free software movement.

Mr. Stallman is yet another link in the chain of interviews that we started a few months ago and that we will continue with more prominent characters. Richard has kindly made a gap between his occupations, and has answered the questions of our questionnaire, which you can read and enjoy below. And at the request of the interviewee, some questions have been fragmented to be answered little by little.

Linux Addicts: On our blog we have announced the releases of new versions of GNU / Hurd. What advantages do you see in the Hurd kernel over Linux?

Richard M. Stallman: We launched development of the GNU Hurd kernel in 1990 so that the free GNU operating system would have a kernel. I launched the GNU system in 1983 to make it possible to use a free computer, which requires a free operating system, made up entirely of free programs. (It also requires free application programs, but it would be another stage.) But all operating systems were proprietary, that is, they deprived those who used them of their freedom. To do computing in freedom, we had to escape from them. See http://gnu.org/gnu/the-gnu-project.html.

Any operating system requires a kernel as a component. For a free operating system, you needed a free kernel. In 1990, there were none. Linux, the kernel that Torvalds would develop, had not started. Having (more or less) all the rest of the system, it was time to start the kernel.

Today, Linux is a free kernel (apart from the "binary blobs": firmware programs, without source code, hidden in Linux), and it works fine, so there is no need to replace it. Therefore, we no longer prioritize the Hurd. We delete the "blobs" to have a free version of Linux, which we call "Free Linux" even in English, and we use the GNU system with Free Linux. See http://gnu.org/software/linux-libre.

By contrast, replacing "blobs" (present in Linux as Torvalds publishes it) with free software is a high priority project. Without the blobs, some peripherals don't work; not wearing them is a sacrifice we make for our freedom. We want to make them work in freedom; then we have to replace blobs with free software.

LxW: Bell Labs Plan 9 claimed to be the successor to Unix, but ultimately failed because Unix was good enough.

RMS: I don't know why, but I doubt that explanation.

LxW: Do you think the same thing that happened to Plan 9 with GNU / Hurd can happen?

RMS: The analogy between Plan 9 and the Hurd is wrong: it had different goals. Plan 9 was intended as a technically superior replacement for Unix.

It failed, and the goal was not achieved. We conceived the Hurd as the first Unix-like kernel that was free. It was not a replacement for another, because we did not have another. This goal has been achieved, not by GNU Hurd but by Linux. The GNU system is used, although not with the GNU Hurd but with Linux. So we have advanced to fight proprietary software on other battle fronts.

LxW: Let's talk about the "enemy" ...

RMS: Our "enemy" is proprietary software, software that attacks the freedom and community of users, as a whole. Microsoft is one of the enemies. Today, it seems to me that Apple is a worst enemy of freedom. I invite you, dear readers, to escape from both, and finally from all proprietary programs.

LxW: You know that Microsoft's philosophy has changed somewhat lately.

RMS: I see the change that you indicate, but it does not seem to me to change much.

LxW: Has released some projects, has released .NET Core and Visual STudio Code for GNU / Linux

RMS: Some parts of .NET are free, for a few years. But Microsoft refuses to promise not to attack .NET users with its patents.

So using them is somewhat risky. We advise against developing software with .NET. As for Visual Studio, it is a proprietary program. So it is not a solution, but an instance of the problem. The solution would be to replace it with free software.

That this proprietary program already works on GNU / Linux does not legitimize it, morally. It is not why to thank Microsoft. See
http://gnu.org/philosophy/free-software-even-more-important.es.html. If we developed GNU primarily for our success, with no deeper goal, I suppose we would celebrate the availability of a proprietary program like Visual Studio on GNU / Linux. Sure, it can increase the success of the system.

But we have a deeper goal that is worth more than success: free computing.
Our goal is to free users, that proprietary programs stop depriving them of their freedom.

If someone uses Visual Studio on GNU / Linux, it is much better than using Visual Studio on Windows, because Windows no longer submits it. But it has not yet come to freedom, because Visual Studio still submits it. You need to develop a free program to replace Visual Studio.

LxW: But the most striking thing is that lately there is rumor about a possible internal discussion to "open the code" of Windows, what do you think of this possible free Windows?

RMS: I fight for free software, that is, for freedom and the community of users. "Open source" is another idea, conceived to be apolitical and amoral, with which I disagree. See
http://gnu.org/philosophy/open-source-misses-the-point.es.html. Therefore, I do not use the words "open" or "close" to talk about the software. On a practical level, if a program is "open source," it is almost always free; the exceptions are few. So if they release "open source" Windows, it will almost certainly be free.

If Windows is free software one day, it will basically be ethical. More clearly, its mode of distribution will be ethical. We would have to see if it has any other ethical issues, but I wouldn't reject it just because it comes from Microsoft. I have no prejudice against Microsoft, or Apple, or anyone. I judge each developer according to their conduct ...

LxW: You and Linus Torvalds have rejected the C ++ versus C programming language. Can you explain why?

RMS: In my case, it's because C ++ is so complicated, I don't think it offers a benefit worth its complexity. I don't know what Torvalds said about it.

LxW: Contributing to free software can not only be done by programming. Freeguras.com is a clear example. Do you know her? With crafts (although it would be exportable to other fields) they are managing to donate 10% of the proceeds to the FSF.

RMS: I don't know him, but this news pleases me a lot.

LxW: What would you say to people who think only of contributing lines of code?

RMS: There are many ways to help and support the free software movement. See http://gnu.org/help.

If you know how to program well, please help us programming. If not, please help us in another way.

LxW: You have changed the world, your philosophy has transcended beyond software, reaching hardware, and even projects that have nothing to do with computers (music, books, etc.). It has also served to spread the philosophy of releasing the code to other fields such as biology (free seeds, Glowing Plant, OpenWorm).

RMS: If they say "open," they are probably not interested in freedom and not promoting our philosophy.

In some of these fields, user freedom is not raised as an important issue. There are many moral issues in life; I do not insist on formulating all in terms of one. If the injustice of proprietary software has no major parallel in any field, I congratulate that field.

But let's not forget it in the field of computer science!

LxW: We are aware of the difference between open source and free software, but would you like to see the GPL license in the future in fields such as medicine, biology,…?

RMS: Copyleft, of which the GNU General Public License is an example, is legally based on copyright. Then it is only applicable to works subject to copyright. Copyright law does not apply to drugs or seeds.

Some, confused by the incoherent concept of "intellectual property", assume that patent law is similar to copyright law. So they think to directly adapt the copyright in a patent left.

In fact, these two laws are totally different, they have nothing in common. (For this reason, the term "intellectual property" must be rejected, see http://gnu.org/philosophy/not-ipr.es.html.

It should not be repeated unless it is in quotation marks. It is not possible to adapt the left of
author directly to patents.

I know someone who is exploring methods to achieve something similar to left-wing results with patents, but you have to do them with contracts and it is not as natural as using the GNU GPL.

LxW: I have read that most of the time it uses console mode and that it only uses graphics mode at certain times when it requires it. When you do, what desktop environment do you prefer?

RMS: Graphics mode being secondary to me, I don't want to spend time trying out the various options. I use GNOME out of loyalty because it is from GNU, and I am satisfied with it.

LxW: Normally when parents are asked which child they want more of, they always shy away from the answer and reply that they love them all equally. You have children: Emacs, GCC, or GDB. Which one do you want more?

RMS: These three are my technical "sons", but my most important "son" even because he is not technical. It is the idea of ​​freedom in computing, the idea that users deserve to exercise control of the programs they use, and that we fight for this control.

LxW: I have seen how you commented that good documentation writers are needed, even more than programmers. Do you think dedicated people are also needed to carry out security audits?

RMS: Yes of course.

LxW: I say this because malware and critical vulnerabilities affecting GNU / Linux systems are being discovered lately.

RMS: Nothing is perfect. The proprietary programs have technical flaws, and the free programs too. But who is allowed to correct such mistakes?

With free software, any user is allowed to correct them. You can do it yourself, if you know how to program. You can employ a programmer to do this. You can participate in a group, with a few programmers, to correct it for the benefit of all.

But with proprietary software, only its owner is allowed to make this change, or any changes. You can even deliberately introduce bugs. With proprietary software, the developer exercises power over users, and often uses his power to impose malicious functionality on them that no user can correct. See http://gnu.org/proprietary/ for dozens of examples of malicious functionality in very common proprietary programs.

It turns out that proprietary software does computing for assholes. With free software, malevolent functionalities are rare because users have ultimate control and can defend themselves against the malevolent and discourage its introduction.

LxW: This last question is something special. I leave you some names and you put a brief opinion on each one:

RMS:

  • Android:

Contains proprietary components; one is Google Play, which is malware. See http://gnu.org/proprietary/proprietary-back-doors.html.

The free version of Android is Replicant; see replicant.us.

For the issue of Android and freedom, see http://gnu.org/philosophy/android-and-users-freedom.html.

  • FirefoxOS:

It uses proprietary drivers, but may have less proprietary software than Android.

  • Raspberry Pi:

It has a fatal flaw: it doesn't even know how to launch without proprietary software. See fsf.org/resources/hw/single-board-computers for comparison with other products.

  • Arduino:

From what I have heard, it is free and ethical. I don't have direct experience with it, because I don't do such projects.

  • Linus Torvalds:

It does not fight for the freedom of the user.

  • FreeBSD:

It contains proprietary software, "blobs" in the kernel, similar to the "blobs" in the usual version of Linux.

  • SteamOS:

It starts with GNU / Linux and adds proprietary software for the distribution of proprietary games. I wouldn't use them because I don't want to give up my freedom. See http://gnu.org/philosophy/nonfree-games.html.

  • Microsoft:

Mainly enemy of our freedom, although it develops some useful free programs.

  • Apple:

Mainly enemy of our freedom, although it does develop some useful free programs.

  • Drones:

In some countries, a murder weapon.

In our countries, a danger to privacy.

Don't miss the next interviews… And don't forget to leave your comments.


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  1.   Gaston Ramirez said

    Very interesting the talk, grace LxA

  2.   specialk said

    This freak is contradictory with his approaches, among freedom is to do what you WANT WITH YOUR THINGS, am I going to do what the linux fanboys say? It is like a business, if you want customers you have to adapt, but to disappear, I do not understand why so much itch with these things and if there are so many complaints, then manufacturing alternatives, there are already alternatives to flash (only not so effective, in exchange it does not consume the bestiality they consume) and not confuse monopolies with business. Well this mr. Jewish trojan horse no wonder it goes on the free solftware roll when it does not defend freedom but the possibility of copying and monopolizing without having to pay a penny. Firefox is already the proof of this

    1.    Minsaku said

      But what idiocy are you saying. No defender of Free Software is telling you what to do, only a criticism is made of the proprietary software system and free propaganda so that later you choose ... manipulative.

      Create alternatives? GNU is the alternative ... I repeat ... manipulative.

      1.    Gonzalo said

        your duster was seen when you said jew
        go back to your neo-nazi cave

  3.   Fernando Corral Fritz said

    Good talk, although I would have liked RMS to be asked about Debian and Ubuntu.

  4.   Bradley said

    An excellent talk

  5.   emilio said

    Great the type of interview. It looks quite interactive. Thanks for the input.

  6.   Roberto Mejia said

    Very good, you would have asked him what he uses since I mentioned that Environment usually uses XD

  7.   Lenin Pena said

    Great interview. Personally, I doubt that Microsoft is talking about releasing windows as open source, especially when this new version stopped being a product to become a service.

  8.   lordmiaux said

    I have dealt with him in person and he is truly a nice person. A privileged mind, that too. It may seem fanatic in some concepts, such as kernel blops, but hey, that depends on each one of using them, you cannot be looking at each line and apex of the code in a finicky way.

    On the other hand, for some comment, apart from one that is especially xenophobic in its tone to which I could also feel alluded to, a user (specialk) has said that he does not defend freedom but copy. Let's see, it is that it is not copying the private intellectual property of that code, but rather parts of the creation of an open source program (public intellectual property) so that that program or code can be adapted to the real needs of each one. , therein lies the freedom. For example, a user uses Debian with the base code, but I don't like it because it doesn't appear with the drivers or programs that I want, because I make my own version with those programs, for example, for education.

    And then I publish that version of Debian with educational programs so that you can do what you want with it. There is no private intellectual property because I start from the basis that I publish it so that it can be used or modified as well.

  9.   dosyogoro said

    The message of this person is not that proprietary or closed software is penalized, therefore it leaves the door open for everyone to do what they want.

    The message of this person is that one of the uses of freedom taking advantage of copyright is to defend a trade based on sharing total freedom over what is traded, for this it is essential to be open or transparent with what is traded.

    Free software does not have to be free and in fact it is not, because everything has a price, this is an essential principle of nature (prices do not have to be exactly monetary or material: there are many types of prices and trades: like favors: if one does not return favors little by little one runs out of favors), although this is a philosophical issue that is sometimes difficult to perceive and is not the issue.

    Free software is a trade that is based on sharing the developments that one publishes; The negative cost is that there will be those who benefit without giving anything in return, but it is still profitable or positive to do so because in the end one always receives more than what one gives, since the work that one gives ends up emerging from the additions of the Others and in the end everyone receives more than what they pay or deliver, therefore the cost of those who do not contribute is assumed because in the end there is profitability or economy or profits (if this were not the case, this business model would not be successful).

    It is called free as A could be called, the name is an assessment that is made to differentiate it from what is considered proprietary, but the opposite opinion is accepted: there will be those who call free trade "proprietary" and proprietary trade "free" and vice versa.

    In the so-called free trade, you trade with a contract that leaves a series of conditions that those who value it is because they think that those freedoms to copy and improve the product at the cost of trading again with the same conditions are better than trading at a price that then does not let you copy or improve the product, or know in its entirety the product that is bought or traded.

    There will be those who share that it is better to pay without knowing in its entirety the purchased product (closed or closed source) or having the freedom to copy or improve the product in exchange for being able to later trade, (if you reach an agreement -new payment- with the proprietary property of the product with which it traded in order to generate a development of it), in the same conditions of being a source or closed program and that its product developed in agreement with the owner is neither copied nor improved without its permission (another payment) first in that primary development.

    And as I say, believe that it is more correct to call this trade free than the other because the other trade in its own way demands a price or commercial contract condition, which is to continue trading under the same open source conditions and to allow copying. and improve the product to others for no other price than being able to use the improvements made to your product thanks to that type of commercial agreement.

    If we are free, we will let each one call their trade whatever they want, but due to the practicality of the language, the names end up having a conventional and connotative acceptance: this is why even those who think that private trade is freer than the so-called free trade accept the uses and names already established to mean each trade, which could perfectly have been called trade A and trade B: each one with their contract philosophies where the merchants freely participate if they accept or do not accept the conditions or prices given to buy them or not.

    The so-called free software is not free, it has a price, when it is bought or acquired, the trade is accepted under the price or conditions that any improvement to the product obtained must continue to have the same commercial conditions in which it is required to open the code (open source) and allow the improved product to be copied and improved: And this business model exists because it works and is profitable, it gives profits (whatever they are, there are not only monetary profits) to those who use it to trade.

    The same as proprietary software when it is sold or acquired, the conditions required by the commercial contract must be maintained: do not open the code and leave it closed without knowing how it is made and never being able to stop copying or improving the product.

    Freedom is letting everyone trade what they feel comfortable with. But as is natural and normal in democracy or freedom of expression, those interested in so-called free trade (it could be called B or C or Z) will make propaganda and campaign of their convenience so that more and more people use it, and therefore It will defend its virtues while it will expose the defects of the other business: Then and to each one who freely decides what type of business they prefer.

    Richard Stallman does not attack freedom of expression, nor does he penalize those who use or trade in the so-called proprietary trade, he simply does not like it and expresses his opinions of why he does not like it and because he prefers the other type of trade (which he influenced to appear ) such that to him this type of trade seems freer and more valuable than the other: And with him there are many people who freely share his valuation and defend that type of trade and use it.

    Using one type of trade is not detrimental to using the other, the normal thing is that the two types of trade are used each with its prices and contract conditions, both being equal in reality: because the two trade each with their conditions or prices in their types of contracts, leaving each one to freely accept or not the conditions of contract or use. That each one from their freedom assess what type of contract they value more to accept their contracts or conditions of use or commerce (which in free software, as it is said in the interview, is based on copyright).

  10.   Gonzalo said

    According to Richard Stallman in everything except that drones are a weapon to kill and a danger to privacy, it is like saying that knives are dangerous to human life because some use them to kill.

  11.   Carlos Davalillo placeholder image said

    Excellent interview, I would have liked them to talk more about free hardware.

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