Thursday, November 02, 2006

Stallman is Annoying (and Important)

After my commute in this morning I'm about halfway through last night's interview with Richard Stallman on The Linux Link Tech Show. Stallman is every bit as irritating and interesting as he was the last time he was on the show ( Episode 79 - April 13, 2005). The funny thing is, I agree with much (not all) of what RMS espouses in terms of software and technology, but his confrontational, unfriendly demeanour always leaves me gritting my teeth.

Hats off to the TLLTS guys for remaining courteous in the face of being repeatedly cutoff with what were many times demeaning responses. It takes a significantly sized set of cojones to avoid losing your cool. Although I'm only halfway through I haven't heard Linc pipe up at all. I won't be surprised if he doesn't. I'm not sure he would be able to hold his tongue ;).

Stallman is unwavering in his commitment to free (as in speech) software. And while he would like to see everyone using free software he's not about to sacrifice one bit of that freedom to expand the user base. He was critical of Eric Raymond's view that sacrificing that freedom (in the form of using properly licensed proprietary multimedia codecs in Linux distros) in order to bring Linux more fully onto the mainstream desktop is not only ok, but vital. Stallman of course stated that he was interested in maintaining and supporting freedom, popularity be damned.

Are Stallman's views realistic and pragmatic? No. Are they important? Yes.

While it's all well and good that you and I run some combination of free software and proprietary muckety-muck (true freedom after all let's us do what *we* want - even if it's proprietary), it's also important to have somebody anchoring things down at the 'freedom' end of the scale. There are plenty of people willing to sell you software and hardware that will lock down functionality and limit your freedom (er.. IPod .. cough cough), it's good to have something balancing (and fighting) that at the other end.

Richard Stallman's views, attitude and demeanour are definitely annoying but very important at the same time.

Update: I listened to the rest on the way home tonight... Linc Fessenden did not disappoint!