Free Software is for Freedom Lovers

February 13th, 2015   Submitted by Seth King

Here is a speech I gave at last year’s Porcfest, just recently published. Enjoy!

18 Responses to “Free Software is for Freedom Lovers”

  1. HReardenNo Gravatar says:

    If you don’t want to abide by the seller’s rules then don’t purchase their product. When you rent or purchase time shares there are rules regarding use of the property. If you object to them then you should rent or buy time shares. It is dishonest to purchase something with the stipulation that you will abide by the terms of an agreement if you don’t abide by those terms. This holds true for software. You are a hypocrite if you purchase proprietary software if you don’t approve of proprietary software. Proprietary software would exist in a condition of the absence of a state if contracts exist and are enforced in that situation.

    • HReardenNo Gravatar says:

      Should be, if you object to them you should not rent or buy time shares.

    • JohnNo Gravatar says:

      In a free society Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Comcast, Verizon, etc. would not have a gun pointed at them. There would not be thousands upon thousands pages of regulation designed to keep competition down and bribes up. In a free society the company that delivers best services at the best price to consumers would win. Those accused of spying and proven or those providing needlessly complicated terms of service would lose. It is the taxpayers-subsidized gun of the government that keeps the current mess of a system together.

      • HReardenNo Gravatar says:

        I agree. Also in a free society the creator of software could place restrictions on the use of their software. There could be enforceable contracts in a free society and the creator of software could require that buyers and users agree to use of their software use it with restrictions.

        • JohnNo Gravatar says:

          Some sort of contracts could exist, but I think it would be very hard to enforce it if say, someone in New Zealand decided to de-compile your creation back into the original source code. IP is very hard to enforce without the use of violence so it is likely to go away.

          • HReardenNo Gravatar says:

            Well aren’t the enforcement of laws done with violence to one degree or another? Certainly murder is a crime and in a “free society” a murderer would certainly be unwilling to take responsibility for his crime and force would be necessary to hold him responsible. It is the initiation of force that is immoral not force to hold criminals such as thieves and murderers responsible for their crimes.

            • JohnNo Gravatar says:

              You raise a good point with the murderers. I must say that it would be a “more free” society, note “100% free”. Pure NAP is not enforceable. Paper (or words or morals or proclamations) don’t stop bullets.

              A solution would be (as scary as it sounds) to let the free market initiate the violence, e.g. private police, private protection agencies. It is a somewhat complicated structure (due to required checks and balances to keep the incentives properly aligned) but it would arise naturally.

              David Friedman has written about this in his book http://daviddfriedman.com/The_Machinery_of_Freedom_.pdf for example.

              Basically, right enforcement / private police / etc. would want to maximize profits and therefore minimize violence, be as efficient as possible and as customer-friendly as possible. The only violent laws they would enforce would be ones that customers as a group are willing to sponsor. Punishment to the murderers – yes. Paying extra for enforcement of IP protection of Disney or Sony or MSFT or even my neighbor? Screw that! Let them figure out the freemium model. Even MSFT is now open-sourcing .Net due to market pressures and competition from Linux.

  2. HReardenNo Gravatar says:

    It seems to me that free software would also be free as they say in Spain “gratis” because anyone could copy it and give those copies away for free. This would result in a lack of incentive to create software for profit and in general. Think about this, why the Hell should one bother to create software if the potentially the first buyer of it can create millions of copies and either sell those copies himself or simply give them away. Who the Hell would bother to buy software if they can find someone who is willing to give it to them. Someone could create a software exchange on the net for the purpose of being able to get a multitude of software at no cost. I think this is the flaw in this free software idea. It could ultimately lead to a lack of innovation and creation.

    • JohnNo Gravatar says:

      There are lots of reasons why free software does work. In short, out of 6 billion earthlings there is a very small fraction of people, but still numbering in hundreds of thousands who tend to be talented and passionate. Just those people alone contribute to technological progress quite a bit.

      1. Freemium model has successfully worked for many for many years now.
      2. Believe it or not, people have been writing free software for decades now. The entire Linux Kernel without which much of modern computing would not be possible is free software. Yes, some contributors to it work for Google or IBM, but at the end of the day those companies had an incentive to hire people to do that work.
      3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linus_Torvalds is now a millionaire because RedHat just decided to gift him some stock.
      4. A good software engineer is US makes upwards of $50/hr Many, particularly those without kids do not need much more money beyond what they make during their 11-9 shift. Many, particularly those without kids like to code as a hobby.
      5. Posting code on https://github.com is a good way to get geeky street cred, to get hired or even to get laid (yes, some MIT chicks dig that). While most techies can get A job, to get the job they would enjoy, they would need to stand above the rest. Since a piece of paper from a university does not mean anything, http://resume.github.io/ is an excellent way to stand above the crowd.
      6. Some are too freaking talented to be bothered with making sure that they get paid. Money will find them somehow because just about everything they touch on the tech side they turn to gold. Example: Aaron Schwartz.
      7. Here is another example: a 24 yo kid has provided almost 14 thousand programming answers free of charge. Why? Because he loves what he does, he pretty much gets to chose who he works for and his salary is easily over $100/hr. He will never be unemployed for as long as his brain works and he wants to get paid. http://stackoverflow.com/users/34397/slaks

      I could go on with additional reasons, but I will stop here. There are enough people willing to produce quality free software. Collectively this has been quite a force, and it will be part of a revolution.

      • HReardenNo Gravatar says:

        There are also many people who want to get paid for their creation and not want freeloaders to copy it and profit from it. Some don’t mind making money like a busker or street performer and rely on some people paying for their product while others don’t.

        • JohnNo Gravatar says:

          Software is not much different from music – both are a bunch of bits that have been traditionally shipped on CDs.

          Lots of coders get paid big bucks for doing closed-source development. They can support their families just fine. Musicians can get paid (whatever they can) for live music. Outside of that, both coders and musicians can adopt a freemium model and treat their fan/user base nicely and ask for donations, sell swag, make money doing consulting … or …

          they can A) Buy a shot gun, try to track down every offender and demand reimbursement or B) Outsource this dirty work to the government.

          The reality is that copying bits is just too easy and breaking DRM is now a competitive sport. Some can adopt, and some can depart the same way as BlockBuster did. Innovate or perish – that is the reality. It can be difficult to avoid reality.

          • HReardenNo Gravatar says:

            Have you created software or music, books, etc…? The vast majority of people have not and that includes those who are strongly opposed to IP and copyright. Perhaps they would have a change of mind if they created something and someone copied it. Just saying, it is easy to be principled when it is someone else whose creation is being copied.

            • JohnNo Gravatar says:

              Have you?

              I can create software. I do not want to leave too much information on this forum about myself. Let’s suppose that I may have contributed to the public domain free of charge with all or some or none of the following: questions, answers, comments, bug reports and code patches but that did not take up a ton of my time and I make my money through traditional means, but would not be against trying working for myself, producing something freemium or doing a kickstarter project.

              Note that https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AdBlock runs on a Freemium model. With 40 million users it is bound to be profitable. Let’s say 1% of the users donated $1 each – that would amount to 40k. There is also AdBlock Plus which generates further revenue, so the dude by now is probably making 100k+ / year doing what he loves.

              He made a scalable product; in a way he got lucky. He probably is more talented than most developers, so this life style is not for everyone. But neither is creating a start-up or starting a Sushi restaurant in Manhattan. One strike and you are out, but that is the nature of some business.

              Every enterprising activity has certain risks/benefits associated with it. Those activities could be trying to become a movie star, a pro athlete, a news anchor, a musician, a farmer, a politician, a freemium code pounder, someone trying to live off of kick starter, someone blowing money on kickstarter projects (their rewards are often non-monetary), an angel investor, a venture capitalist, a code monkey, a porn star, a weed farmer, a soldier, …

              Having your work “stolen” and replicated is just one of many possible business risks.

              I am not sure if AdBlock is purely free software though it may reduce spying on you. Note, however this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AdBlock#CatBlock

              On April 1, 2012 the developer tweaked the code to display LOLcats instead of simply blocking ads. Initially developed as a short-lived April Fool joke, the response was so positive that CatBlock is now an optional add-on supported by a monthly subscription.[14]

              On October 23, 2014 the developer decided to end official support for CatBlock, and made it open-source, under the same license as the original extension. [15]

              This is both an example of software modification that Seth was talking about and a way to make money. Sometimes the money dries up and it makes more sense to release things into the public.

              Seth has touched on open source as well as free software; the two are almost the same but “religions” fanatics like Richard Stallman see a huge difference (I will try to post more on Stallman specifically later). http://askubuntu.com/questions/78958/is-there-a-difference-betwee n-free-software-and-open-source-software

              Both free and open source software makes you vulnerable to stealing. It is possible to make decent money (directly or indirectly, e.g. cushy consulting projects thanks to gained fame) with both. Whether AdBlock and CatBlock are free or open source, they both demonstrate how that would work.

  3. JohnNo Gravatar says:

    Here is an interesting bit – a socialist open source developer refuses to accept bit-coin … or apparently money in general, because it makes his taxes complicated.

    The Future of Payments and Open Source Support
    http://lucumr.pocoo.org/2014/11/2/payments-in-the-future/

  4. JohnNo Gravatar says:

    I think this is a relevant site: http://www.goodbyemicrosoft.net/news.php

    Too bad that so few people actually commented here.

  5. JohnNo Gravatar says:

    A nasty example of how “they” can get you on Windows – they can infect the so-called “secure shell” and thus steal pretty much all of your secrets – exactly the things that you wanted to keep private. This problem does not really exist on Linux because ssh already comes with it.

    Trojanized version of PuTTY client discovered online.
    http://www.zdnet.com/article/trojanized-version-of-putty-client-d iscovered-online/

    A Trojanized version of PuTTY is being hosted on websites aside from the official domain, and cyberattackers have been redirecting users to their own websites.

    “If the user is connected to other computers or servers through the malicious version of PuTTY, then they could have inadvertently sent sensitive login credentials to the attackers,” the researchers say.

    “Data that is sent through SSH connections may be sensitive and is often considered a gold mine for a malicious actor. Attackers can ultimately use this sensitive information to get the highest level of privileges on a computer or server, (known as ‘root’ access) which can give them complete control over the targeted system.”

    The Trojanized PuTTY version was first discovered in 2013, however the researchers believe scanner tests were being performed at this time due to low levels of distribution. However, the file is now being downloaded after users seek a download through Google and inadvertently pick a compromised third-party website to download the program rather than its official source.

    This message appears in malicious versions.
    The compromised website then redirects the user several times, ultimately connecting them to an IP address in the United Arab Emirates, according to Symantec. The altered version of PuTTY then is downloaded.

  6. JohnNo Gravatar says:

    By the way, you are not safe without a “clean” router. This one is less likely contain back-doors, though without open source hardware this is never guaranteed.

    https://www.thinkpenguin.com/gnu-linux/free-software-wireless-n-b roadband-router-gnu-linux-tpe-nwifirouter2

  7. JohnNo Gravatar says:

    Supposedly a pricy [refurbished] laptop that respects your freedom.

    Taurinus X200 Laptop Now FSF-Certified to Respect Your Freedom
    https://soylentnews.org/article.pl?sid=15/09/30/027203

    The Free Software Foundation (FSF) has awarded its Respects Your Freedom (RYF) certification to the Taurinus X200 laptop sold by Libiquity.

    This is the first product of Libiquity to achieve RYF certification. The Taurinus X200 has the same architecture and certified software as the Libreboot X200, which was certified in January 2015. The Taurinus X200 can be purchased from Libiquity at https://shop.libiquity.com/product/taurinus-x200.
    The Taurinus X200 is a refurbished and updated laptop based on the Lenovo ThinkPad X200, with all of the original low-level firmware and operating system software replaced. It runs the FSF-endorsed Trisquel GNU/Linux operating system and the free software boot system, Libreboot. Perhaps most importantly, all of Intel’s Management Engine (ME) firmware and software has been removed from this laptop.
    The RYF certification mark means that the product meets the FSF’s standards in regard to users’ freedom, control over the product, and privacy. The Taurinus X200 comes with the fast and secure Libreboot firmware and the FSF-endorsed Trisquel GNU/Linux operating system. Importantly, Intel’s Management Engine (ME) firmware with its applications like AMT (remote out-of-band management/backdoor system, part of “vPro”) and PAVP (audio/video DRM) have been removed from this laptop.

    The laptop ships within the USA and may be purchased from the Libiquity Store.