[Fsf-friends] RMS in Kolkata...
Wed, 19 Feb 2003 23:11:05 +0530 (IST)
URL : http://www.ilug-cal.org/node.php?id=78
RMS Speaks [icon.gif]
Submitted by sankarshan on Wednesday, February 19, 2003 - 09:44
Richard M Stallman, more famous by his acronym RMS, spoke for the
greater part of 120 mins at K P Basu Memorial Hall of the Jadavpur
University, at the meet organized by JU. The iLUG-Calcutta members
were part of the audience and this is a account of the proceedings.
RMS was scheduled to speak on GNU/Linux OS & the Free Software
Movement. While generally not deviating from his previous speeches and
presentations, the occasion was made memorable by the packed audience.
For a hall with a comfortable seating capacity of ~200, there were
those who stood & sat on the aisle and passage(s) throughout the 2
The session began with a prelude by Dr A N Basu the VC of JU,
introducing RMS to the audience, though his frank admission was noted
- RMS needs introduction to only a very few. His short introduction
contained a viewpoint on the importance of societal knowledge and the
need to perform acts for the greater good of the society. The Pro-VC
of JU, Dr Ashok R Thakur, in his short speech integrated the need to
program software with the concept of freedom [freedom as espoused by
The freedom to run the program, the freedom to study how the
program works and adapt it to one's
needs, the freedom to redistribute the program to help users and the
freedom to improve the program and release the improvements to the
public. In this he used a Russian parable of Gorky to illustrate the
untiring courage of path breakers and evangelists who had the courage
and the vision to forsee the need to make people aware of freedom or
the lack of it in their daily life. He so correctly pointed out that
the issue transcends the economic sphere into a socio-political
domain. The business model of proprietary and monopolistic software
and the associated development model needs to be put under the scanner
according to him.
RMS expressed the need to speak about the socio-political issue
associated with software development. In his opinion, every software
project has a self-serving nature in that its richness is built when
the community participates in its evolution. A community based
development model implements good and moral rules of the society and
thus helps in building up the community itself. The software slowly
evolves like a city. By means of the now legendary Xerox laser printer
model at MIT, he drew a picture of how the proprietary model involving
Non Disclosure Agreement(s) stifle productivity and lead to a closed
community of programmers working in secrecy. And although paradoxical,
Free Software support actually follows the laws of market economics so
as to ensure that the developmental model is not hindered or hampered
in any way. While non-free software represents in his belief, a choice
of "masters", the goal of Free Software is the one that should be more
publicised. At this point he talked about the motivation for people
who write/create free software. He thinks, and is aware of, the need
for people to break the shackles. Some do it for the fun of it, some
as a consequence of their political idealogical leanings while some do
it for money and appreciation. But whatever maybe the reason for
creation of such software, the GNU/Linux movement is a strong one. He
expressed a desire to make people more aware of the role of the FSF in
the proliferation of the strong and vibrant free software scene. The
end part of his talk was dominated by the DMCA, Software patents as
well as the trusted computing initiative from Intel & Windows. And
hypothesizing about a time when such shackles on intellectual property
would make it impossible to work in a computing environment.
RMS's alter ego St IGNUcius of the Church of Emacs also dropped in
with his holy blessings on the proceedings.
Some of the memorable quotes of the day :
On being asked if using vi [in the Church of Emacs was a sin] he
admitted [as St IGNUcius ] that using vi was not a sin but a penance.
On the restrictive and evil influence of monopolistic and proprietary
business model, RMS described the incident with the laser printer and
the need for a source code as "We became prisoners of our own
At the end of the 2 hours, after the distribution of 'some GNU/Linux'
stickers was over, the members of the ilUG-Calcutta had a short but
interesting interaction with RMS. While personal doubts about the
licensing regime and the FSF movement were answered, the individual
feelings are best left to be discussed in a meeting.
RMS's writings, speeches and quotes as well as reports on recent
activities are available at his personal home page