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 free software, free culture, free hardware


2019 boycott and a call for resignation

[lit] late christmas eve i had a bout of what im going to sum up as food poisoning. im doing better, and its time to look back on the christmas[lit]/[lit]grav-mass call i made for a boycott of free software and open source in 2019, as well as a call for rms to resign as president of the free software foundation. i dont deny for a moment that different events would have resulted in at least, different wording and timing for such calls. regarding the spirit of christmas, i can sum it up in one word: "stress." i do my very best to avoid the holidays, stallman is an atheist who celebrates "grav-mass" instead of christmas, i was not brought up religiously. but i do think christmas is simply overdone. its a stressful time of year, for me the stress was in trying to get too many things done that were entirely unrelated to a holiday. none of which is anyone elses fault, of course. nonetheless, the excess of stress (as many negative events do) forced me to take full stock of the situation id spent years thinking about-- which is the state of free software. this is no coincidence-- most of the things i was hoping to accomplish on the 25th (none of which were, of course) were related to free software. even though i knew far less about free software at the time, i recall the years from 2007 to 2014 as a time when gnu[lit]/[lit]linux was a fairly reliable operating system. yes, things do break and have to be fixed, but it was a time where effort was rewarded with confidence that the effort and self-education was worthwhile. the more you learned, the more easily things worked. oh, if you got too ambitious that all went out the window-- everybody knows that. and part of the problem im sure, is that developers have set aside too much for their ambitions. though that isnt even the worst of it. the worst things that have happened to free software over the past 4 years ive talked about many times, and will likely go into further detail again in the future. i have tried to explain the redix threat to stallman, others have tried to explain the smaller (but significant) matter of systemd, and no fewer than hundreds of developers have set aside great amounts of time and effort towards fixing these problems. instead of getting things done, i spent more than 90 minutes of my christmas (time i absolutely needed to accomplish any of my other goals) simply getting sound to work again. now-- so what? i mean, if you run an update or install something new, or fiddle with a setting its your own fault if you chose to fiddle at a time when you didnt have time to clean up after it. except i still cant think of a single thing i did. i hadnt installed anything, i didnt run updates, i do my very best to prevent unexpected updates of every kind-- i simply wanted my computer to work like it had a few hours ago (and by far, like it had for the entire month.) this sort of desire was NOT unreasonable from 2007-2014. if you mess with it, as you sometimes ought to, then you know the consequences. but if you dont, and you dont have automatic updates, this simply shouldnt happen. it defintely shouldnt happen for no discernable reason, your computer should (if working according to specs) be fairly stable if you choose fairly stable software. oh, fairly stable software! like we had until debian 8. of course im not using debian, and debian isnt directly the problem this time. i wouldnt have lennarts asinine soundsystem, which is basically the cause of 90% of average-user audio problems in gnu[lit]/[lit]linux history, installed if mozilla and gnu icecat didnt decide that this was an acceptable thing to drag into an otherwise working setup! i know that if i have it installed, sooner or later, sound is not going to work. its a given! well, that day was today. for reasons i cant begin to guess, my web browser-- i suspected an update snuck through via the gnu servers, but ive since tried installing a separate browser which seems to make this less likely, but it remains a mystery-- which it shouldnt be! i know i cant get updates from mozilla, the network wont resolve them and the browser compains in the term window that it cant update. which is what i want, or it will try to disable plugins, which is evil, mozilla... my web browser suddenly stopped offering sound. this was pretty remarkable since pulse was shown to be running, i hadnt done updates, i hadnt so much as changed the volume (though i did go through and check several things after this started) and when i restarted the browser, it complained that pulse wasnt running (ps said otherwise) whenever the browser tried to play sound. so i tried updating pulse. that did nothing. i took the opportunity to run apulse, even though id never tried it before (it was on my list of things to try soon) and sure, when i ran both browsers with apulse, they stopped complaining that pulse wasnt installed. but still no sound. i went through alsactl init, then i went through alsamixer to be sure that init hadnt turned the volume down (it often does) and the mute led on my keyboard was not lit, but the only way i can get the mute led to turn off is via alsamixer anyway. i tried uninstalling pulse and then reinstalling it, and that didnt work the first time. i never got apulse working, but i never got pulse working again until later when i had uninstalled and reinstalled several things several times, including a second web browser. this crap just doesnt work anymore. and i will tell you what has happened over the past 4 years that stallman has denied there being any problem in the gnu[lit]/[lit]linux ecosystem-- even as the fsf adds a brand new distro to their list of official libre fsf distros-- designed to fight systemd! a distro designed to fight a problem that stallman refuses to admit has plagued free software for four years now. for four years, ive watched several groups of people take their time off improving gnu[lit]/[lit]linux to just try to fix the damage done. and im only one of hundreds of other people who have noticed-- the damage still isnt fixed! everything is hopelessly entangled, where things used to work more or less separately. there was never a perfect point in time where everything worked. that would be mythology. no such setup exists, and even if it did, you wouldnt think it was friendly. but its nothing short of incredible how gloriously distros fail now. its garbage, which the most conscientious developers-- those like the developers of hyperbola-- have spent 4 years trying to shovel back into a working distro. i have spent 10x the amount of effort ive ever spent getting things work IN HISTORY and only some progress has encouraged me to continue. i started an organisation to try to convince others and the fsf to take this matter into serious consideration-- and to promote various solutions-- knowing that nothing short of a huge letter campaign to the fsf would ever shift their organisation towards addressing the problem of redix. but as 2018 (our first year as an organisation) comes to a close, i am forced to say that i have reached the point where i am sick of this. in 2014, debian and the entire gnu[lit]/[lit]linux ecosystem were sabotaged. i am well aware of the least-affected options. gentoo has stood up to this (which is why lennart called them out like a smirking blonde-headed weasel.) void, hyperbola and devuan drew a line in the sand (a line which devuan has undeniably retreated from, though they continue to contribute to solutions.) puppy linux is mostly immune. despite all my misgivings about puppy (over the years, ive listed many) it is the distro i learned the most from when i was first learning, and it is simply remarkable how unaffected they are by all of this sabotage. if he cared about free software more than open source, i would say put barry kauler in as head of the fsf. but i dont believe in open source-- if anything i believe "open source" is the vector for all this sabotage, and why mako "we should distance ourselves further from open source" hill is the ideal candidate if stallman ever resigns for any reason. the fsf needs a president who stands up to these new challenges that threaten free software. and i dont think stallman is doing that anymore. indeed half the reason this organisation exists is because of lowered confidence in stallman. lets talk about gratitude though, and credit where credit is due. i am well aware that most people who declare a lowered confidence in rms as the leader of his own movement, are declaring it for political reasons that benefit corporations and monopolies-- monopolies are the very problem that free software exists to provide alternatives to. the "problem" that open source has with free software, is that its primary function is to eliminate the monopolies that they are saying free software "fails" to prop up or "work with." the fact that open source is based on such a completely disingenuous and dishonest concept as that, should give far more people pause. but their rhetoric is mixed with lip service to empty truisms about "live and let live" and "lets all get along." lets all get along with what-- the very sort of top-down control that free software exists to liberate people from?! seriously, mr. lunduke-- are you high? so no, we dont need another smarmy corporate sycophant yes man to take over the fsf, as open source would propose. that would be utterly ludicrous. and someone asked me this morning about my call to "impeach" stallman. no, no, no-- theres a very important distinction to be made. im not asking for anyone to be impeached. even if that were possible, thats not what the call is for! impeachment is a process of forcing a leader out. hopefully if youre going to force someone out of a position (think back to the 2003 invasion of iraq) you have someone better to take their place. mr. stallman knows the importance of choosing the right word for the job-- i have called for him to resign or step down, which im well aware isnt going to happen (though it is no less sincere.) i have not called for him to be forced out. i do think he should be asked to do it. and if youre going to ask someone to step down, there need to be reasons. my reason is simple and straightforward, and obviously controversial-- developers and free software leaders have ceased to display the level of responsibility and attention that they demonstrated in previous years. they have made gods of themselves and are acting more like corporations than people. free licensing isnt enough. to contribute positively to free software, you have to show motives that dont result in sabotage of the entire ecosystem-- sabotage that pushes people away from things that are reliable and controlled by the user. this is different from talking about quality. theres no law about creating "good software." you have the four freedoms-- you can create practically any software you want to! thats what freedom is. but the free software ecosystem relies on a basic system that is under attack. and developers are increasingly unaccountable for what they do to hurt that ecosystem. if you want to go off on your own and tinker to your hearts content with any piece of software, and it doesnt affect the core of the gnu[lit]/[lit]linux ecosystem-- youre doing no harm. you can create all the crappy software you want. maybe it will help! maybe a person will take your crappy software and improve it. last year, i did some refactoring of my favourite program. its still messy and you might laugh at it, but its improved. and someone has already taken it and started improving it further. all of that is fine, and all of that is the nice thing about software freedom. none of that affects the software ecosystem at all, unless it makes it easier for someone to manage a project of their own. but the real damage that has happened over the past 4 years is people taking key software that everyone uses, and forcing redesigns in ways that lead to short-term adoption for short-term convenience, with long-term destruction and damage to both freedom and control by the user and reliability-- like never before. and we know this tactic, because it is the eee tactic that the big players have written sheaves of memos about on how to destroy their competition. and we know from those memos that their competition is free and "open source" software. well, not open source-- because it panders to these monopolies. which means the only real threat theyre fighting against is free software. when you look at the tactics that are public knowledge-- we have seen them applied to destroy competitors and you can tell that from 2014 to the present, they have polluted and taken over the gnu[lit]/[lit]linux ecosystem-- and when the leader of the fsf does NOTHING and says NOTHING about any of this-- does NOT speak out against it, and insists that he doesnt understand any of this-- then yes, it is time mr. stallman, for you to voluntarily step down. but i would stress that we need someone better, someone serious, to take his place. i am not suggesting that rms should "just go home" and disappear from the public sphere. i am not suggesting that he is any less fit to go do his paid talks, which i know he enjoys doing (or at least used to, and probably still does.) i am not suggesting he should leave the fsf! he should certainly be on the board. i am not suggesting that rms is any less the father of the free software movement, than albert einstein is the author of the theory of relativity. but i do think he should resign as president or retire from the position, i do think that the fsf has spent FOUR YEARS in public denial about problems that are destroying free software, and forcing it to retreat from what could have been four years of steady progress, instead of four years scrambling to fix problems they cant even admit exist. and i think that ben mako hill is the best possible replacement, ive thought so for the past 5 years or even longer (at least since matt smith joined doctor who, as i also thought that mako would be excellent for the role.) and i feel confident that ben mako hill would have a great deal of respect in how he dealt with the problems ahead. though of course, i could be wrong. and i expect mr. hill to either ignore all this, or say "no, thanks. id rather have stallman do this." its got to be said that i dont think anybody is ready to fill the important role that stallman filled in 1984, and 1991, and 2005, and 2010-- the role that stallman filled when we learned about prism. im not knocking his career or brilliance or legacy, only the past 4 years of his presidency. the fsf needs him on the board, at a minimum. i dont someday want to watch what is happening to apple with tim cook, happen to the fsf without rms. people were talking about what microsoft would do without gates, and after ballmer, and theres no reason we shouldnt talk about what the fsf would do without rms. this doesnt make him any less important, we still owe him (and always will) for the very ecosystem that has degraded over the past 4 years. but with that said-- organisations exist to give a leg up to their causes and their members. and i dont think the fsf is doing that right now. and i think its leadership is the reason. the fsf has a responsibility to its members to first understand this threat, and then to make it known. it has failed on both of these. someone should do something, and if mr. stallman is preventing them from doing so, he should step down. if he is failing to do so himself, he should step down. but i agree that we need to think about the best person to take his place. i dont think it is a role that any person will be fully prepared for. i dont think rms himself was fully prepared for it in 1984, but i dont think we would have come this far without him. i do think we need someone stronger at the helm, as the threats have increased, and the condemnation and solutions to those threats have grown weak. there is no one that is "like stallman, only more like him." that wont ever happen. there are only people who are different. they would have to have enough in common that they filled the role, but we all know there will never be another president rms. the fsf still has an important role, and that role needs to continue (or start again) with or without rms as president. until then, i am calling for 2019 boycott of all free software. use non-free software? no! use free software, of course. i am calling for people to withhold all donations to free software projects in 2019. until developers and organisations are willing to acknowledge the problems they are experiencing-- and helping to create. no, i doubt that boycott is likely to happen either. or perhaps someone else will lead a boycott like that, in 2020 or 2021, or however long it takes for people to get as tired of these problems as i am. you can join this boycott in any sort of fashion you think is best-- im not laying down rules for it. after 2019, i am recommending the boycott end. if it does anything at all, one year should be long enough to make the point. some people will tell you that only a "few" people understand the problems i am complaining about. since they were concerned even before i was, i know i can tell you that (whether their interpretation is in line with my own or not) the following people "get it" and have worked to solve this problem that fsf simply cannot bring themselves to admit exists: 1. denis roio, who already worked on dyne:bolic, an fsf-approved gnu[lit]/[lit]linux distro 2. emulatorman, who heads hyperbola, an fsf-approved gnu[lit]/[lit]linux distro 3. ian jackson, who joined debian in its first year, and has spent the past 4 years fighting this problem that the fsf does not admit exists 4. some debian developers who have left debian to fight this problem elsewhere 5. the veteran unix admins, who created devuan along with roio 6. fsmithred, maintainer of devuan live, refracta and the refracta-tools remastering programs 7. various bloggers and software developers who have spent years talking about these problems 8. most of the puppy linux community, at least those who would even notice the changes happening outside the puppy linux distro 9. anticapitalista, distro developer 10. aitor, developer of gnuinos 11. eric vidal, developer of obarun 12. (theres far more distros, developers and relatively famous people-- though im tired of listing them.) i believe stallman is more focused on hardware-related threats and license-related threats, while the software ecosystem is constantly getting dragged backwards into windows-esque software lock-in and instability. the core free software ecosystem is no place for these problems. indeed, these are the sorts of problems we fled to rely on gnu[lit]/[lit]linux as a solution to in the first place. we still have the freedom per se, but we have not for years now, enjoyed the full benefits of that freedom. without proper leadership, we are only bearing the costs to keep it from getting worse. to say that this isnt about software freedom, is to say that if gnu[lit]/[lit]linux were wiped off the face of the earth, you would still have software freedom because you could write a replacement and use the gpl. the effects are real, the problems are real-- the denial that happens year after year is shocking. whatever is preventing the fsf from addressing this-- now (if not 4 years ago) is the time for that to end. [lit]

figosdev, december 2018

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