canonical debian fpga freedom gnewsense gutsy gibbon launchpad mark shuttleworth opensparc proprietary software richard stallman stooge distro ubuntu

Taking freedom further

everybody loves eric raymond episode 66 strip

60 replies on “Taking freedom further”

In a sense, this comic supports the justification for binary drivers. The argument is that as you strip them away, the OS becomes less useful. By implication, the strip says that with the binary bits missing, Ubuntu will be barely usable, but if you take the extra step of running on only free hardware then it finishes the process.

If anyone needs a launchpad account, let me know, I have 4 invitations left. :-)

Wow, funny stuff. I love the look in Mark’s eyes, looks like devil – where did you get this photo from?! :D Excellent!

What does it say about the state of education when a significant portion of posters are unable to comprehend a four-panel comic?

Well I’ve been using gNewSense which seems to be the distro being talked about, for some time now, I now do make absolutely sure about the hardware that I buy… It’d be nice if the Ubuntu guys would just refuse to include the binary crap, they are starting to get the weight now to demand the source for firmware.

I think the new distribution is a great idea. I don’t see how it will be a “stooge distro”, it will essentially have all the features that you’ll find in a Debian based GNU/Linux distribution. Most of my computers run fine with no proprietary software installed, the only exception is my laptops that need proprietary firmware for wireless. I would most certainly use the 100% free version on most of /my/ computers.

It will be great for people to base a distribution on, without having to worry about trademark issues and whether they’re allowed to distribute certain bits and pieces. I know of several companies who stick with Debian instead of Ubuntu because of this.

Having said that, I did laugh at this strip :)

It’s funny hoe ELER can just take things out of proportion and turn it into something completely outrageous!

> I don’t see how it will be a “stooge distro”
It was a joke.

> it will essentially have all the features that
> you’ll find in a Debian based GNU/Linux
> distribution.
Except for firmware and something more.

> It’s funny hoe ELER can just take things out of
> proportion and turn it into something completely
> outrageous!

It is even funnier when you are from UK, or any place with a good sense of humor like Brazil, or better, if you are not from USA.

Jonathan, currently Debian distribute firmware, though they are planning to change this in the future. The Linux kernel actually contains small bits of binary only firmware unfortunately, for things like ATI Radeon cards, without the firmware you get no 3D support with DRI. The Intel graphics cards don’t seem to have this problem though, which is good.

Now whether the bits of firmware are acceptable or not is a bit hard, as it seems that the gNewSense guys (and I use gNewSense) are okay with firmware on the hardware, but not userloadable… If there is much of a difference, well I’m not technical enough to really be able to say… Sometimes I feel it’s just a bit silly.

This is priceless… it nails rms and his over-arching plan to the wall with
20d nails. rms on a cross! Too bad its past Easter.

(If you had Mark’s money, you’d be smug too.)

gNewSense *is* silly.. thats the point.

(I’d love a luchpail^Wlaunchpad account.)

The Glossy GNUsense will not have firmware, BUT that also means increased security, not just a bigger e-p33nor. Remember the critical madwifi bug earlier this year that affected only CERTAIN bending distros *cough Ubuntu Suse cough* (yeah it’s half closed source).

>This is priceless… it nails rms and his >over-arching plan to the wall with
>20d nails. rms on a cross! Too bad its past Easter.

Please don’t tell me you take this facetious reasoning seriously. You do realize that it’s essentially a line-drawing fallacy with a side of slippery slope fallacy, don’t you? I guess I shouldn’t expect more of a petty blasphemer.

gNewSense has already proven that when you remove the non-free software, including the binary blobs, you are left with quite a functional distro.

There might be problems for wifi cards and some 3d hardware, but the value of gNewSense is that it exposes these things. Before gNewSense, people didn’t know whether or not they were relying on binary blobs.

There’s a difficulty with the position some are taking about firmware.

It seems strange to me that if you take a device that has firmware in non-volatile memory, and you cut the wires that allow you to reprogram the firmware, the device is free, while if you allow the firmware to be loaded with the exact same bits, but the bits are loaded in when the device starts up, the device is non-free. You can’t write your own program for it at all in the first case, while in the second case it’s possible that in the future you might be able to load your own code (consider RockBox and the like).

To me, a device that can be reprogrammed gives the user more freedom than one that can’t be, period.
Besides, if there’s a bug in the firmware and it’s ROM, you’re stuck.

Some of these comments betray a distinct lack of humor, so we submit the following morsel from days of yore:

Truly, our responsibility to spread the Gospel of the Gnu is weighty.
Cleave to what is good. Remember the words the prophet Stallman
brought down from the Mount MIT, graved in Lisp on tablets of
crystalline lambda calculus.

Only this true: Emacs is pure.
All else is false.
Do not be misled by false gods like Vi, the Editor of the Beast.
Do not be seduced by Word, the Scarlet Woman of Babylon.
Do not be driven to madness by Xcode, the Blind Priest of the Children of Asherath.

Regarding firmware, it depends on one’s notion of freedom. Some people recognized that free software is required for any democratic society from here on out. Of course, ROMs in this context are a moot point–they are limited in the same way any particular hardware component is. We decry the limitation of any aspect of the hardware with as much justification as with ROM.

Software, on the other hand, is information that is so easily copyable and easily modifiable (particularly in its source form), that distinctions such as free and nonfree take on huge significance within a society, i.e., people who tend to cooperate (share code, etc.).

Those who distribute nonfree software–intentionally or not–end up forcing people to not cooperate, to not share useful information, with one another.

>> It’s funny hoe ELER can just take things out
>> of proportion and turn it into something
>> completely outrageous!

> It is even funnier when you are from UK, or
> any place with a good sense of humor like
> Brazil, or better, if you are not from USA.

And it’s even more funny when you reply to an innocent comment with an anti-American rant, without noticing that the person you’re ranting at isn’t from the USA at all. Hint: look at the URL that Jonathan’s name links to.

> Those who distribute nonfree software–
> intentionally or not–
> end up forcing people to not cooperate,
> to not share useful information, with one
> another.

Out of interest, what do people who DON’T distribute software do?

There’s a continuum ranging through:

– Don’t distribute

– Distribute with restrictions that hamper further distribution

– Distribute with restrictions that encourage further distribution

One of the biggest problems I encounter trying to promote FL/OSS software is that there is a perception that it’s “all or nothing”, without any acceptance that sometimes a position mid-way along a continuum can be the best place!

Promoting FL/OSS can easily be taken as a suggestion to avoid nonfree software, so the “all or nothing” perception seems quite natural. Taking away nonfree software from the continuum you suggest makes the continuum much less interesting, IMO.

Our biggest challenge is learning to help each other and others to get acquainted with the price of certain freedoms, just as others in the past needed to do with other kinds of freedoms (that we take for granted today).

Often this price is an inconvenience with a piece of software. Clearly, many of us pay this price, so we need not give up so easily on others. E.g., although my wife does not care to know anything about computers, because she has learned about the relevance of free software to a democratic society, she has been willing over the years to learn a few things about GNU/Linux.

Since your wife does not care to known anything about computers, I’m going to assume that you’re the one who set up her computer. Did she have an option of using anything but FL/OSS? If not, it could easily be said that your wife is only willing to learn a few things about GNU/Linux because she’s more interested in using the computer than because of the relevance of free software.

Of course, promoting the use of FL/OSS can be a much more dificult process when the promotee is someone you share a less intimate relationship with.

We used to use nonfree software (MacOS, MS Windows), with my wife never caring enough about differences among systems to prefer an option. (We both admit to nostalgia for MacOS.) Thanks for catching my error: certainly, my wife also has the motivation of using the computer, so, yes, that also played into her willingness to learn more about GNU/Linux.

One day stuck out, however. After we both had became more aware of the increasing corporate influences over the press, she must have read something that touched on software’s increasing role in journalism (like everything else). She then pestered me about why I had not explained to her the connection before. Thus, I had let her down by not ever bothering before to try to explain why free software could matter to *her*.

Yes, promoting is tougher in general. OTOH, I was never “preachy” with her, more out of laziness than anything else. It turned out that had I engaged her early on with a little preaching, we both would have been better off, with a fuller appreciation of the computing experience.

In the past I had taught nonfree systems to people from all walks of life. Often I had the occasion to mention free software to them and received incredulous reactions. Sadly, I did not perceive at that time any opportunity to help them make the kind of connection my wife did.

IME, what turns off people about RMS’s philsophical messages is not some feeling about communism. Instead, it is their abstractness–how does free software relate to me? Some have tried to make the philosophy more concrete, but of course it is just the tip of the iceberg. We are _not_ talking about the _benefits_ of free software here as they are popularly conceived but instead the hugely neglected _role_ of free software in society. I.e., the “open source” campaign is crowding out the free software message.

Shuttleworthz (emphasise on the Z there)… Debian still contains proprietary code in it, in the from of firmware blobs. gNewSense is purity, 100%. Debian isn’t.

And saying they should be shot… Well you’re just stupid.

BT, that’s a nice story… And who would have thought that the woman you married and probably get along with so well… Would have interests in the same things as you. ;-p

Spread the word: Reiser is innocent!

Sturgeon did it! He’s killed eight people (nine including Nina) and he’s out for blood! He must be stopped! Only a B*-Tree filesystem can get the truth out!

Oh, we’re so sorry we ever thought you were guilty, Hans. Please come back and finish Reiser4, I now know that it was that ne’er-do-well, the so-called “Doctor” Stephen C. Tweedie who set you up so people would have to start using ext3 again.

Get the truth out!

Don’t worry, ‘ol chap. I’m sure you’ll find someone to explain it to you.

No jokes ’bout Dell shipping machines with Ubuntu installed? C’on folks, it’s pure gold!!

@ “# # Posted by gappyggn on Apr 28th, 2007 at 12:36 pm

btw I think Mark has to be the sexiest free hacker millionare, no?”

Er, yes – but since that’s a set of like 1 person, that’s not hard to achieve… ;)

I guess Mark is like xyz of free hacker millionares.

Where xyz = almost any attribute of choice ;)

“Taking boredom futher” — Come on, it can’t take this long to release a fresh ELER comic, can it?! I want my fix!

Come to think about it, isn’t esr a millionaire too, or did the dot-com crash kill that?

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