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Part 2: My replies to the Free Software Foundation (FSF) Vision Survey

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2/1/2016 - Part 2: My replies to the Free Software Foundation (FSF) Vision Survey (Activism)


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Part 2: My replies to the Free Software Foundation (FSF) Vision Survey
Monday, February 1st, 2016
10:37:15 GMT


Here's part 2 of the long replies that I was trying to send in response to the Free Software Foundation (FSF) Vision Survey.

Added to, edited, and reworded to some extent, with added HTML formatting and hyperlinks.

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4

(Quote from the survey:) Imagine it's 2020 and the opposite is true -- we are less free as computer users. Describe some things that have gone wrong. (End of quote.)

I find the Internet of Things very spooky - even now in 2016.

The "Internet of Things" and "Pervasive Computing": Some of the Worst Ideas Ever

Sometimes I wonder if we need not only the free software movement, but a free _from_ software movement. :-)

One of the most intriguing though worrying books I read in 2015 was Trillions: Thriving In The Emerging Information Ecology by Peter Lucas, Joe Ballay and Mickey McManus.

One reason I hope free (as in freedom), libre hardware will catch on a lot more is because I sometimes worry that maybe non-libre hardware manufacturers might somehow figure out how to make it totally impossible to even boot GNU/Linux on their hardware.

I wish I could 3D print my own computer stuff. :-D

I hope more can be done to financially support free, libre software authors, and everyone else in the world who could use more financial support.

Actually, I think there ought to be an unconditional basic income for everyone.

The only reason I'm able to write free, libre software at all is because my family supports me and doesn't try to treat me like a slave or try to force me to violate my ethical principles by writing closed source, proprietary software.

If I had happened to be in worse circumstances, the world would have missed out on quite a lot of my creations. (The best is yet to come. And much of it has probably been delayed a lot by my bad circumstances.)

Also, the stress, sometimes poor nutrition (which sometimes triggers headaches which might be migraines), and various other problems resulting from poverty also haven't been good for my health, so, I might have a shorter lifespan than I would have had if I had not been poor.

And maybe I'd be a less shy, timid person in general if I were in better circumstances. I probably would have pointed this survey out to more people, but I just felt too stressed out and overwhelmed to keep forcing myself to be outgoing (even on the internet).

Fortunately, posting things to my own websites, or sometimes even to very slow-paced quiet forums, is much easier for me than sending messages which will probably soon get a response which I probably ought to respond to promptly, but might be too stressed out, tired, headachy, etc. to feel up to dealing with or to even read.

At least usually avoiding the stress and time-consumption of social contact helps me focus and make more progress with my various projects sooner than I otherwise would.

Probably my software projects and perhaps some of my writing would do more to help the world (and even my own situation) than me having a social life, anyway. :-)

At least things are better than they were in the past. I'm very comforted by (among other things) my increasingly good programming skills, which give me some hope that somehow, someday, I might find a good way to make a living. Maybe even sometime before 2020. :-)

And perhaps I already could support myself if I had nothing against writing closed source, proprietary software.

If my family's financial problems had caused us to lose our home in 2013, it's unlikely I would have managed to finish a release of the Puppy Setup Kit back in Sept. 2014.

And if my family hadn't been struggling so much, I probably would have tried GNU/Linux many years sooner. I was curious to try it as early as 2002 - I just didn't have a spare computer to experiment with, and couldn't risk ruining my family's computer either. (Which, for many years, was a Mac, so probably no GNU/Linux would have worked on that anyway.)

I actually didn't even have a decent computer of my own until Feb. 2002. And, regrettably and with the naive optimism of youth (I was 20), I went into debt to get it.

Despite how unpleasant my life has been at times, I still have been very lucky. Financially, I'm much more trapped than people who can more easily work because they don't have severe sleep issues (and shyness) getting in their way.

But, unlike most people, I've had an unusually massive amount of free time, mostly thanks to my family supporting me. Which has been more valuable than money, I think, because I managed to put plenty - though far from all - of that time to good use.

But, sadly, probably tons of far more intelligent and talented people than me have not been so lucky.

And even many financially stable people have to spend a ton of their time slaving away at a job, time which they could probably devote to far more worthwhile pursuits.

I guess this is a good place to point out my Blog Action Day post from 2008.

Here's an interesting self-help blog post I stumbled across recently:

I also suggest reading the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.

It's vitally important for people to have free time. And one reason why is because in general, probably no one becomes a world-class programmer or world-class anything else without tons of practice.

Another fascinating book I'd recommend is Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

Fragile things are damaged or broken easily. Robust things are resistant to damage and change. But antifragile things are things which actually benefit from rough handling, chaos, change, etc. Like a phoenix, or a hydra.

If you think about it, many closed source software business models might actually be pretty fragile, given that free, libre software and hardware of sufficient quality and ease of use could easily dissuade potential buyers of closed source, proprietary, liberty-infringing software and hardware from wasting any money on such things in the first place.

Another thing I'm concerned about is the systemd controversy. So far, I don't really understand it on a technical level, but, if I understand correctly, if too much software unrelated to systemd is made dependent on components of systemd, then, that could threaten people's freedom by making it much harder for people to build and run a GNU/Linux system without systemd.

And I've heard that incompatibilities caused by systemd dependence could make it difficult to compile free, libre software on non-GNU/Linux systems like BSD.

systemd is often referred to as "init software", but if I understand correctly, apparently it has grown far beyond just init software, and has been engulfing more and more basic functions traditionally done by many separate, independent components of GNU/Linux.

Here's the animation which introduced me to the systemd controversy:

And some other ones:


As a Puppy Linux user who doesn't even read the Puppy Linux forum very regularly, and also as someone who doesn't pay much attention to news in general (even Linux news), I just happened to avoid even noticing the systemd controversy for a long time.

But even the creator of Puppy Linux objects to systemd:

And there's this long Puppy Linux forum thread with mostly people objecting to systemd:

I'm very glad that this means that Puppy Linux will probably continue making a strong effort to remain free of systemd.

I'm also very glad the Devuan project exists.

Devuan is a fork of Debian, inspired by the fact that Debian was surprisingly overly welcoming of systemd and suppressive of people objecting to systemd.

Even though systemd is actually under a libre software license - the GNU LGPL 2.1+, according to Wikipedia - I suspect systemd really might be an insidious (though hopefully unintentional) threat to software freedom, since perhaps systemd might become so indispensable (due to software being made dependent on it) that it might become difficult to even build a GNU/Linux system or a lot of software packages without installing systemd.

On any computers with pitiful amounts of RAM I run Puppy Linux with (or any other computer), I don't want to be forced or pressured into having to waste RAM on anything at all that I can do without, but especially a reputedly big, bloated, overly complicated, tangled-up thing like systemd.

Or, quoting a description recently mentioned by someone on the Devuan mailing list - "the everything-welded-together, no-user-serviceable-parts-inside architecture of systemd".

So, I think it would be terrible if systemd somehow gets way too enmeshed in and almost (or totally) inextricably inseparable from GNU/Linux.

I hope long before 2020, that possible problem will be alleviated.

Also, I think it's really puzzling that some proponents of systemd seem to get so provoked by the fact that many people would prefer to avoid systemd.

One of the major benefits of using a libre operating system is that, unlike a closed source, proprietary operating system, you're supposed to be able to avoid having things you don't want being shoved down your throat.

So, I think the people objecting to having systemd practically forced on their systems are right to be upset, and the people who viciously mock and ridicule anyone who doesn't want systemd are (perhaps without realizing it) basically mocking and ridiculing software freedom itself.

Even if systemd were the best thing since sliced bread (which I don't believe it is), I think it would still be wrong to try to forcibly impose it on people who don't want it.

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4

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