Monday, January 02, 2012

Richard Stallman Was Right All Along | OSNews - Thom Holwerda

Mon 2nd Jan 2012 19:12 UTC

Late last year, president Obama signed a law that makes it possible to indefinitely detain terrorist suspects without any form of trial or due process. Peaceful protesters in Occupy movements all over the world have been labelled as terrorists by the authorities. Initiatives like SOPA promote diligent monitoring of communication channels. Thirty years ago, when Richard Stallman launched the GNU project, and during the three decades that followed, his sometimes extreme views and peculiar antics were ridiculed and disregarded as paranoia - but here we are, 2012, and his once paranoid what-ifs have become reality.

Up until relatively recently, it's been easy to dismiss Richard Stallman as a paranoid fanatic, someone who lost touch with reality long ago. A sort of perpetual computer hippie, the perfect personification of the archetype of the unworldly basement-dwelling computer nerd. His beard, his hair, his outfits - in our visual world, it's simply too easy to dismiss him.

His views have always been extreme. His only computer is a Lemote Yeelong netbook, because it's the only computer which uses only Free software - no firmware blobs, no proprietary BIOS; it's all Free. He also refuses to own a mobile phone, because they're too easy to track; until there's a mobile phone equivalent of the Yeelong, Stallman doesn't want one. Generally, all software should be Free. Or, as the Free Software Foundation puts it:

As our society grows more dependent on computers, the software we run is of critical importance to securing the future of a free society. Free software is about having control over the technology we use in our homes, schools and businesses, where computers work for our individual and communal benefit, not for proprietary software companies or governments who might seek to restrict and monitor us.

I, too, disregarded Stallman as way too extreme. Free software to combat controlling and spying governments? Evil corporations out to take over the world? Software as a tool to monitor private communication channels? Right. Surely, Free and open source software is important, and I choose it whenever functional equivalence with proprietary solutions is reached, but that Stallman/FSF nonsense is way out there.

But here we are, at the start of 2012. Obama signed the NDAA for 2012, making it possible for American citizens to be detained indefinitely without any form of trial or due process, only because they are terrorist suspects. At the same time, we have SOPA, which, if passed, would enact a system in which websites can be taken off the web, again without any form of trial or due process, while also enabling the monitoring of internet traffic. Combine this with how the authorities labelled the Occupy movements - namely, as terrorists - and you can see where this is going.

In case all this reminds you of China and similarly totalitarian regimes, you're not alone. Even the Motion Picture Association of America, the MPAA, proudly proclaims that what works for China, Syria, Iran, and others, should work for the US. China's Great Firewall and similar filtering systems are glorified as workable solutions in what is supposed to be the free world.

The crux of the matter here is that unlike the days of yore, where repressive regimes needed elaborate networks of secret police and informants to monitor communication, all they need now is control over the software and hardware we use. Our desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones, and all manner of devices play a role in virtually all of our communication. Think you're in the clear when communicating face-to-face? Think again. How did you arrange the meet-up? Over the phone? The web? And what do you have in your pocket or bag, always connected to the network?

This is what Stallman has been warning us about all these years - and most of us, including myself, never really took him seriously. However, as the world changes, the importance of the ability to check what the code in your devices is doing - by someone else in case you lack the skills - becomes increasingly apparent. If we lose the ability to check what our own computers are doing, we're boned.

That's the very core of the Free Software Foundation's and Stallman's beliefs: that proprietary software takes control away from the user, which can lead to disastrous consequences, especially now that we rely on computers for virtually everything we do. The fact that Stallman foresaw this almost three decades ago is remarkable, and vindicates his activism. It justifies 30 years of Free Software Foundation.

And, in 2012, we're probably going to need Free and open source software more than ever before. At the Chaos Computer Congress in Berlin late last year, Cory Doctorow held a presentation titled The Coming War on General Purpose Computation . In it, Doctorow warns that the general purpose computer, and more specifically, user control over general purpose computers, is perceived as a threat to the establishment. The copyright wars? Nothing but a prelude to the real war.

As a member of the Walkman generation, I have made peace with the fact that I will require a hearing aid long before I die, and of course, it won't be a hearing aid, it will be a computer I put in my body, Doctorow explains, So when I get into a car - a computer I put my body into - with my hearing aid - a computer I put inside my body -I want to know that these technologies are not designed to keep secrets from me, and to prevent me from terminating processes on them that work against my interests.

And this is really the gist of it all. With computers taking care of things like hearing, driving, and more, we really can't afford to be locked out of them. We need to be able to peek inside of them and see what they're doing, to ensure we're not being monitored, filtered, or whatever. Only a short while ago I would've declared this as pure paranoia - but with all that's been going on recently, it's no longer paranoia. It's reality.

Freedom in the future will require us to have the capacity to monitor our devices and set meaningful policy on them, to examine and terminate the processes that run on them, to maintain them as honest servants to our will, and not as traitors and spies working for criminals, thugs, and control freaks, Doctorow warns, And we haven't lost yet, but we have to win the copyright wars to keep the Internet and the PC free and open. Because these are the materiel in the wars that are to come, we won't be able to fight on without them.

This is why you should support Android (not Google, but Android), even if you prefer the iPhone. This is why you should support Linux, even if you use Windows. This is why you should support Apache, even if you run IIS. There's going to be a point where being Free/open is no longer a fun perk, but a necessity.

And that point is approaching fast.

(20) 49 Comment(s)

Sign Up For The OSNews Newsletter!

Your Email Address Sign Up Now!

News

Printers Open to Remote Attacks? Linked by Howard Fosdick on 12/31/11 7:57 UTC Columbia University researchers claim millions of HP printers could be open to remote attack via unsecured Remote Firmware Updates. Cybercriminals could steal personal information or attack otherwise secure networks. HP agrees there is a theoretical security problem but says no customer has ever reported unauthorized printer access. The company denies some of the claims and is still investigating others. 1 16 Comment(s)

HTC Unlocks Its Verizon, AT&T Bootloaders Linked by Thom Holwerda on 12/28/11 23:45 UTC Good news for owners of HTC's Android devices - HTC has expanded its official bootloader unlock utility to cover all HTC Android devices launched after September 2011, no matter the carrier. Older models will also be added to the tool, but this will take a little longer. 2 5 Comment(s)

Boxee 1.5 for Desktops Arrives, but the End Is Nigh Linked by David Adams on 12/27/11 17:47 UTC Boxee released version 1.5 of its free multimedia streaming software for Mac, Windows, and Linux desktops today, but simultaneously announced that it will cease offering the Boxee desktop software after January 2012. Thereafter, the company will limit its focus to devices such as the D-Link Boxee Box. 0 21 Comment(s)

Android Device Makers: Take Note of These Two Articles Linked by Thom Holwerda on 12/24/11 13:00 UTC Earlier today, Samsung revealed that it won't update the Galaxy S, its most successful smartphone to date, to the latest version of Android. You might shrug and dismiss that as just more evidence of Android's inherent fragmentation or the need for buyers to beware, but I take grave issue with it. This is a decision based not on technical constraints, as Samsung would have you believe, but on hubris. This. A gazillion million thousand times this. Also: It's simple: make a large high-end device, a smaller value device, and a QWERTY device. Maybe one or two other specialty form factors, tops. That's it. Update them once a year, and keep the names the same. It would make updating a hell of a lot easier. We don't need the Samsung Galaxy SII Epic 4G Touch Sensation. 2 104 Comment(s)

Android Drivers To Be Included in Linux 3.3 Kernel Linked by fran on 12/24/11 10:09 UTC Android drivers are returning to the Linux kernel. Kernel maintainer Greg Kroah-Hartman has retrieved the Android drivers removed from the staging area of Linux 2.6.33 in the spring of 2010 andput them back into his development branch for version 3.3 of the Linux kernel. [...] The plan is for a Linux 3.3 kernel to be able to boot on an Android device without further patches. 7 16 Comment(s)

Windows PowerShell: Meet the New Shell Linked by fran on 12/24/11 10:08 UTC The new Windows PowerShell is coming. Actually, Microsoft has just launched a Community Technology Preview of Windows PowerShell version 3, although the final version 3 probably wonât ship until it comes out with Windows 8. It also will be available for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. The CTP will install on those OSes. 0 34 Comment(s)

Cinnamon: GNOME Shell Fork with a GNOME2-Like Layout Linked by Anonymous on 12/21/11 23:38 UTC Clement Lefebvre, the Linux Mint founder, has started working on a GNOME Shell fork called Cinnamon, which tries to offer a layout similar to GNOME 2, with emphasis on 'making users feel at home and providing them with an easy to use and comfortable desktop experience'. Among the features that we'll probably see in Cinnamon are GNOME2-like notifications and systray icons, option to change the panel position and other panel options like autohide, etc. Some of these features are already available through Mint GNOME Shell Extensions (MGSE), but their functionality is pretty limited. 3 50 Comment(s)

More Free Online Technical Courses Linked by Howard Fosdick on 12/21/11 0:39 UTC M.I.T. has just announced it is expanding its list of free online courses anyone can take. Attendees earn completion certificates. M.I.T.'s OpenCourseWare project already offers 2,100 courses used by 100 million people. OpenCulture, Free Ed, E-learning Center, and Alison offer competing free online courses, including many on computing and IT certification. 1 24 Comment(s)

Apple Sues Samsung Over 10 Phone, Tablet Case Patents Linked by Thom Holwerda on 12/20/11 11:27 UTC I'm guessing Apple is getting desperate, since its software patent lawsuits aren't doing particularly well. Moving on from software and design patents, the company is now suing Samsung over... Patents for mobile phone and tablet cases (more at The Verge). I think Apple has more offensive lawsuits than products now, so technically, patent maker is more accurate than gadget maker or device maker . Fun times. 1 122 Comment(s)

Galaxy SII, Note To Get ICS First Quarter 2012 Linked by Thom Holwerda on 12/20/11 10:13 UTC Samsung Electronics plan to provide the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich update for GALAXY devices. The platform update for GALAXY S II and GALAXY Note will start in the first quarter 2012, and other GALAXY devices will soon follow. The ICS-upgradable devices are the GALAXY S II, GALAXY S II LTE, GALAXY Note, GALAXY R, GALAXY Tab 10.1, GALAXY Tab 8.9, GALAXY Tab 7.7, and GALAXY Tab 7.0 Plus. Could be worse, I suppose. 0 25 Comment(s)

More News »

Sponsored Links

Unlocked Cell Phones iPhone 4 Unlocked

VIPER: Automation Software for DMCs and Event Planners

OSNews Privacy Statement | Notice to Bulk Emailers © 1997-2012 OSNews LLC. All Rights Reserved. OSNews and the OSNews logo are trademarks of OSNews. Source Code © 2007-2012, Adam Scheinberg, except where noted Reader comments are owned by the poster. We are not responsible for them in any way. All trademarks, icons, and logos shown or mentioned in this web site are the property of their respective owners. OSNews.com uses icons from the Tango Project and FamFamFam. jQuery © 2008 John Resig Reproduction of OSNews stories is permitted only with explicit authorization from OSNews. Reproductions must be properly credited.

Forgot Password · Register

Username or Email Password

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

<< Home


Support The Commons

RSS Atom Feed


follow johniac at http://twitter.com

Join Johniac's Frappr Map

johniac's Rapleaf Score