Sunday, October 25, 2009

Keynote speech of Richard Stallman in about free software movement

Today is the 2nd day of 2009, a Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) conference organized and supported by grassroot communities in Malaysia, and the high tide being Richard Stallman's keynote speech about free software movement of more than 2 hours, right before the delayed lunch.

Well, the lunch time was delayed due to a slight delay on the keynote speech, and more importantly was mainly caused by overwhelming Q&A with some strong debates.

During this session, all the seats in the big lecture room in APIIT were full, and there are people standing around. Several hundred audiences attended his talk today.

For those who still wondering who is Richard Stallman, well, a.k.a. RMS, he is an American software freedom activist and the founder of GNU Project as well as Free Software Foundation. He is the first person who talked about software freedom back in the 80's, and also the first person who put it in action to bring the free GNU operating system to us.

If not of his great philosophy and numerous hard work, the history might changed and, the subsequent emergence of Linux kernel and numerous free and libre software might not be going as far as today.

RMS is very humerous. Guess what he wore on his head? (Hint: it is an IT product, probably obsoleted by today.) However, when come to his principal of software freedom, we see the very strong perseverance, no ambiquity, never compromise side of him.

RMS strongly disagreed some of the terms imposed by proprietary software vendors, such as "piracy". He said "piracy" is about attacking ships which is very bad, but copying and sharing software with friends is of no way be valued to compare with the act of attacking ships. We should be given freedom and encouraged to do so, for the good of the entire society.

RMS has reemphasized his philosophy on free software in his speech. He believes that free software is a matter of the users' freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. More precisely, it means that the program's users have the four essential freedoms:

  • The freedom to run the program, for any purpose.
  • The freedom to study how the program works, and change it to make it do what you wish. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
  • The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbour.
  • The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements (and modified versions in general) to the public, so that the whole community benefits.
RMS also differentiates clearly free software movement from open source movement, and he strongly against being labeled as the "father of open source". He said free software value things from ethical perspective, while the open source is a practical movement which might compromised his philosophy.

Perhaps not all of us agree with RMS' free software philosophy in 100%, but his speech did stir up our mind to think more in-depth about our freedom in software. We need great warrior like him to keep us awake about our rights and freedom that we should pursuit for.


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