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January 6th, 2017

GNU Officially Boots Libreboot

FSF and GNU decide to grant Libreboot lead developer Leah Rowe’s wishes. The project is no longer a part of GNU says RMS.

Breaking News

booting Libreboot

A saga that began about four months ago has ended — or so it seems, On Thursday, Richard Stallman, founder and head of the GNU Project, officially said Goodbye to GNU Libreboot in an email on the GNU mailing list.

This story first broke on September 16 when Leah Rowe announced, also in an email to the GNU mailing list, that she was pulling Libreboot from the GNU Project. Rowe is the lead developer for the project, which produces free and open source software to replace proprietary BIOS firmware. The project was endorsed by the Free Software Foundation and became an official part of the GNU Project on May 14, 2016.

Rowe said that her reason for seeking to remove the project was because “[t]he Free Software Foundation recently fired a transgendered employee of the FSF, just for being trans, because some transphobic cissexist people wrote negatively about her. The FSF fired her because they thought she, rather than the assholes bullying her, was causing the FSF potential damage.”

Not so, Stallman said in a reply the next day. “The dismissal of the staff person was not because of her gender,” he wrote. “Her gender now is the same as it was when we hired her. It was not an issue then, and it is not an issue now.”

Later the same day, John Sullivan, executive director of the Free Software Foundation, GNU’s parent organization, posted an official statement to the organization’s website. “This morning, an open email circulated in which the author said that the Free Software Foundation ended a relationship with one of our employees for discriminatory reasons,” he began. ‘Although it is our usual policy not to comment publicly on internal personnel matters for privacy reasons, we felt it necessary to state unequivocally that the allegations made in that email are untrue.”

Two day after that, on September 18, Damien Zammit, a developer with the Libreboot project, contributed to the discussion with a post on his personal blog in which he painted a picture of a project lead who was both out of control and without boundaries. “I have recently noticed that Leah Rowe is the only person who has git commit access to the website, libreboot.org,” he wrote, “and also the only person who has git commit access to the codebase, which has only become a problem recently.

“We (the contributors) are not consulted about any of the views expressed on the libreboot.org website when they are hastily published by Leah,” he continued. “So, whenever you read ‘We believe…’ or ‘We say that…’ on the lists and websites, Leah has ultimate control of the libreboot project currently. It is clear that this person has been misusing control of the project to spew out irrelevant personal opinions on behalf of the ‘libreboot community,’ a singleton group of people consisting of … yes you guessed it, Leah Rowe.”

It was assumed at the time that the GNU Project would keep Libreboot under its care, perhaps under a new name, and that, for a while at least, there would be two Libreboot projects. However, Thursday’s announcement by RMS put’s an end to GNU’s involvement.

“A few months ago, the maintainer of GNU Libreboot decided not to work on Libreboot for the GNU Project any more. That was her decision to make. She also asserted that Libreboot was no longer a GNU package — something she could not unilaterally do. The GNU Project had to decide what to do in regard to Libreboot.

“We have decided to go along with the former GNU maintainer’s wishes in this case, for a combination of reasons: (1) it had not been a GNU package for very long, (2) she was the developer who had originally made it a GNU package, and (3) there were no major developers who wanted to continue developing Libreboot under GNU auspices. Given these circumstances, to continue development of Libreboot within GNU would not be useful, so we are not going to do so.

“Thus, Libreboot is no longer a GNU package. It remains free software.”

Rowe, who is herself transgender, appears to continue to have issues with the FSF and GNU, and has placed something of a diatribe against the organizations along the bottom of the project website’s home page. “Libreboot left GNU on 2016-09-15, in protest of transgender discrimination at the FSF,” it reads. “GNU arrogantly resisted this. Here are 5 reasons why your project should leave and/or never join GNU.”

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Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

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25 comments to GNU Officially Boots Libreboot

  • Flan OBrien

    “to spew out irrelevant personal opinions”

    As a daily reader of lxer Linux news aggregation site I find the quantity of articles that are sexist (Women in this, Women in that) or cultural Marxism in the form of the diversity meme, STAGGERING.

    Linux has truly been infiltrated.

    So the maintainer of libreboot thumbs her nose at a world urgently in need of libreboot, by slowing down or stopping the a project. Over what? Some alleged “hate crime.”. These people need to grow up. If all people who actually (as opposed to allegedly) suffered discrimination went off in a self harming hissy fit, the world would become chaotic.

    Though they have become law, hate crimes are proven only in the fantasy land world of judges. No one can know anothers intention or emotional state unless they are mind readers from Alpha Centauri.

    The promotion of hate crimes means hissy fits like this will be on the rise.

  • Ted Macaroni

    In a world where the term ‘diversity’ has come to mean special privileges for certain classes it is no surprise that the odd individual will act as if the rules of decent conduct are just there ‘for other people.’

    Leah’s actions were extremely unprofessional, especially with regard to misrepresenting the views of other members of the Libreboot team and for that reason I am glad to see the FSF is not kowtowing in the face of this outburst.

    Libreboot is an important project and it’s a real shame to see it leaving the FSF. Perhaps bridges can be rebuilt in future once tempers have cooled?

  • dwss5

    Article quote:

    Rowe said that her reason for seeking to remove the project was because “[t]he Free Software Foundation recently fired a transgendered employee of the FSF, just for being trans, because some transphobic cissexist people wrote negatively about her. The FSF fired her because they thought she, rather than the assholes bullying her, was causing the FSF potential damage.”

    In case there was any doubt before, this quote alone surely enforces the idea that Rowe is the EPITOME of the Social Justice Warrior (SJW). Also see SJW defns at urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=social justice warrior and http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Social_justice_warrior

  • matt gregoire

    I am sorry to hear this. I hope everyone can be respectful let go the past, make up, and forget who did what. Its important to move forward and I’m sure both parties are committed to goodness so again I ask let go or war will persist in a world already so divided.

  • To Leah Rowe, whatever you are:

    You are the epitome of everything wrong in the world of injustice. I would only ask that you and your ilk take the final step and wear a sign stating whether you’re a he, she, it, or blend. No need to go any further and state that you’re a flaming idiot over your position; simply wearing the sign says it all.

  • @jimmike I think you’re on the verge of stepping over a line and offending people I don’t think you intend to offend.

  • Mike,

    Would you also have me board a train to a holiday camp any time soon?

  • Mike

    Hey Leah,

    Don’t listen to chowderheads like jimmike.

    Since none of us commenting were directly involved, it’s difficult to say what should or should not have happened. Reading the Libreboot site, it sounds like you reacted emotionally and regret that it may have harmed your friend to some degree. We all know that’s easy to do when we think a friend has been wronged, so I can sympathize.

    I don’t know what percentage of copyright you hold over Libreboot, but I do find it odd that GNU would even consider holding onto Libreboot (going so far as to consider your continued development a fork) if it is mostly your creation and work. Did you have to agree to any terms giving up control to place Libreboot under GNU?

    I saw Damien Zammit’s post and although I have no idea what percentage of code he has submitted to Libreboot or under what conditions/license, but if it is significant then it would seem he has a valid point about being represented via the Libreboot website without his input or consent. Does Libreboot have a formal team or organization sturcture? Just curious.

    Regardless of other issues, I think Libreboot fulfills an important role in the free software ecosystem and I respect the work you’ve put into it. I hope this doesn’t discourage you from continuing the good work.

    Oh, and thanks for pointing to the Talos workstation on Crowdsupply. I never would have heard of it otherwise. Unfortunately it doen’t look good for their funding effort, but I think they are the current best hope for a truly libre hardware solution to free us from the tyranny of Intel’s management engine/backdoor.

  • tracyanne

    @Flan OBrien

    Hate crime is a very real thing, as is discrimination in general, and should never be minimalised either by you, or because the actions of someone like Leah Rowe, who abuses the protections aforded people who are most affected by the marginalising affects of hate and discrimation, by crying wolf, and making much ado about nothing.

  • Sasha Strokes

    what’s the matter with people thinking that their sexuality or race or any other personal information is a matter for everyone?

  • Tomy Tani

    I’m really sorry to read this. Especially because both parties are on the right side. I’m sorry for free and open source software’s sake.

    I do understand that personal matters and feelings are important. It’s also important though to deal with such matters in a professional way. As mentioned, for free and open source software’s sake. Let this story calm down, focus on the future, best of luck to every Foss developer.

  • Man, the comments section sure gets ugly every time this story gets brought up.

    I don’t know what happened in this situation. I don’t know who was right or wrong, if anybody.

    But I do know that the first three comments up there are embarrassingly retrograde, and jimmike’s is downright offensive.

    Learn a bit of empathy, guys. It’s possible to disagree with someone’s actions without insulting her as a person, let alone making offensive generalizations about groups of people.

  • Lengyel Sandor

    My feeling that transgender people tend to have more emotional problems than the heterosexuals or gays. (i.e. cannot except the body they have.) As such, in this respect they tend to be more sensitive.

  • @Lengyel That would seem to be a bit of a generalization.

  • Eddie G.

    Ok. Enough, I’ve read statements from all over the web on this issue. Listen, I respect every person on the planet regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation etc.etc….

    But there’s a problem here, one that the military solved expeditiously and with finality. When you apply for a job, there’s a that little checkbox that asks you your Gender, when you check that off you’re IDENTIFYING with THAT SEX, whether male or female. Companies will ask this of you to determine how you’re to be addressed both in the Outlook Email Directory and in person / over the phone etc. (e.g. – Sam is currently in a meeting but SHE will be out within the hour) or (Sam said HE’S heading out to lunch now and will cover the front desk when he returns.)

    Now….at NO POINT on your APPLICATION…or DURING AN INTERVIEW are you asked about your SEXUAL PREFERENCES or WHETHER OR NOT YOU SLEEP WITH MEN OR WOMEN – you know what that’s called?….its from the US Military’s “DON’T ASK – DON’T TELL” policy. If NO ONE ASKS you if you are a TRANSGENDERED PERSON…..shut the (bleep) up and KEEP IT TO YOURSELF!….I don’t are what “feelings” you might have about your own body….THE WORKPLACE IS NOT WHERE YOU BRING THIS SUBJECT MATTER PERIOD!! Would you come into work and talk about the various sexual positions you and your significant other practice on a weekly basis?..wha about coming in and speaking about how you ate dog food from your pet’s dish?….then why do you feel the need to parade your “transgender” status around the office?…LIKE ANYONE CARES!? We’re here at work?…TO WORK! There’s no grey area about it Period….point Blank….and The End.

    Now…

    To those who would bully or otherwise harass or plague those who are transgendered, gay, bi or any of the other things a person can be? Know this: Somewhere on the planet, you might not know it? but a family member of YOURS is dealing with whether they have “feelings” for another guy/girl….sometimes it’s your own immediate family, a son, daughter, brother, sister, cousin, etc. Do you think you’d feel good knowing they were being persecuted at work? What about physically or verbally abused? just for a few laughs around the water cooler? Well even if you DON’T have family members in that position, think about this…the next time you’re in an auto accident, or that you call the Fire Department…or the Emergency Medical Technician to save your life, or the life of someone you love, how would you feel if they decided you WEREN’T going to be helped because you’ve got a bug up your “bathtub” on the topic of transgendered / gay / bi etc? Stop being ignorant, it might not appeal to you, it might not be something you want to acknowledge but its like the air you breathe, it’s just there. You don’t have to acknowledge it, (and this goes back to the first paragraph!) you don’t have to “live” with it…you just have to accept it and move on….just like you accept that your taxes will go up, you gripe about it behind closed doors at home…BUT YOU DAMN SURE PAY THEM…and ON TIME TOO DON’T YOU!? Well just keep all your hate-speech, biased, prejudiced drivel behind closed doors and treat EVERYONE you come across both at work, on the street, at the laundromat, at the grocery store etc, like the Human Being that they are, and you’ll find your life isn’t as lopsided as you might believe.

    And finally….
    To the people who have a problem with those of a different sex, or a different sexual orientation…or race…or religion…or language etc. Understand that the “World” got a WHOLE LOT SMALLER with the birth of the internet….if you’re not able to cope with things in your own neighborhood, don’t think running off to Switzerland will change anything,…people of various cultures and origins exist everywhere and there’s NOTHING you can do to change that or prevent yourself from bumping into them in all walks of life. Stop being the ignorant type and just treat others as you would want someone to treat your parents….your baby sister…..your daughter……your son. The time for division is over, and the time to come together is NOW. We’re so busy being at each others throats that sometimes we can’t see the bigger picture: (Is NO ONE paying attention to this IoT?…how our WASHING MACHINES….MICROWAVES….TELEVISIONS…and these “Miracle Speakers” that dwell in our homes ALL TALK TO EACH OTHER!?) Is no one finding it odd that there’s this incessant “push” to have our entire HOMES connected?….the seemingly haphazard RUSH to get these driver-less cars all over the roads? is it not starting to look a little “Orwell-ian”?….people….WAKE THE HELL UP AND STOP WITH THE PETTY BULLSH*T!

    ‘Nuff Said

  • Mike

    @Eddie G.

    Sorry, but you are completely wrong.

    Being transgender is a different and separate issue from being gay, straight, bi, etc.

    It has very much to do with that simple male/female checkbox you described. Those complaining and being condescending about people not conforming to male/female roles are speaking from a position of PURE IGNORANCE. The truth is that gender is not a simple binary even on a genetic level. It never has been…this is not new. It’s just that these people have been marginalized and ignored for most of recorded history.

    The discrimination is real. Putting you head in the sand and pretending it doesn’t exist doesn’t help either.

  • Esmerelda

    “We’re so busy being at each others throats that sometimes we can’t see the bigger picture: (Is NO ONE paying attention to this IoT?…how our WASHING MACHINES….MICROWAVES….TELEVISIONS…and these “Miracle Speakers” that dwell in our homes ALL TALK TO EACH OTHER!?) Is no one finding it odd that there’s this incessant “push” to have our entire HOMES connected?….the seemingly haphazard RUSH to get these driver-less cars all over the roads? is it not starting to look a little “Orwell-ian”?….people….WAKE THE HELL UP AND STOP WITH THE PETTY BULLSH*T!”

    Good point.
    https://www.wired.com/2012/03/petraeus-tv-remote/

  • Eddie G.

    @Mike – No you misunderstand my comments, I’m not saying there’s no VALIDITY to either the discrimination or trauma one might feel regarding this issue. I am merely referencing the article regarding the woman who went “to war” with her (employers?…co-workers?….never really understood that aspect of working witin a community project) seemingly to take umbrage at how someone ELSE was treated, and while I can respect that aspect of it…please know that in the real world every person is accountable for their OWN actions, an no-one else’s! This woman can be offended all she wants and she can take her project and leave with it, but to slam people who remain all because of how someone ELSE was treated? (unless its a physical thing and its family!) speaks volumes. I was merely pointing out that there is a time and place for everything and by her taking the approach she did?…she kind of diminished her validity. As for the transgender folks and the issue not being a simple binary one, I cannot speak on it because I’m not transgender, nor do I know anyone like that, but I do know that as long as a person is comfortable in the skin they’re in?…then to hell with the rest of the world and society as well. I for one know quite a bit about discrimination, as I’m an African American living in the state of NY. Yeah you think its easy being shunned, rejected, etc because of the color of my skin?….then I can only imagine how much harder it is for someone that’s transgendered. But this isn’t about BEING transgender, its about the REACTION of ONE woman who was offended FOR someone ELSE that WAS transgender, and in the professional world? that just doesn’t fly. And while you can throw out the “well they started it”…or “its not fair” rhetoric, the bottom line is there is ALWAYS an alternative way to achieve something. And in my opinion the way she went about it was not professional at all.

  • Eddie G.

    @Esmerelda – EXACTLY! This is something that’s just getting worse and worse, and its like Humanity ISN’T EVEN PAYING ATTENTION! I mean c’mon….VR headsets?….Apple iWatches?….these things are causing someone to NOT notice that they now have a “FRONT DOORBELL APP!?….like what happens when that touchpad for your front door GETS HACKED!? For that matter what happens when your toaster?….refrigerator?…washer/dryer gets hacked?…or to REALLY give you goosebumps, what happens when you’re cruising along in your car/SUV and some “drive-by” hacker gets control OF THAT!?? Like I said before is NO ONE MINDING THE STORE!?….have we become so hungry for entertainment that we’re willing to ignore the obvious and play deaf, dumb, and blind just for a 2 hour thrill at the movies? or just for the pride we get when showing off the latest in tech-wear? (which is ALSO becoming a “thing”…clothes with sensors and monitors on them!…SHEESH!) I for one will stick with using Linux on all my devices, and will refrain from installing any washer/dryer/toaster/fridge etc. with IoT technology, and if push comes to shove?…I’ll go back to doing my clothes at the laundromat! I just can’t fathom how more people aren’t concerned with this type of thing, but instead they’re obsessed with what Kim Kardashian wore to the awards ceremony?…wow.

  • Esmerelda

    @Eddie G,
    You are weird. You must wear a tinfoil hat. You seem to have some stange idea that possibly, just possibly, some corporation would not be 100% trustworthy with all your personal information. You seem to have a problem with god knows who spying into your living room, looking into your personal communications and perhaps logging what your children are saying to their internet connected Barbie doll (yes they exist). This makes me highly suspicious of you. If you are not a criminal you should have nothing to hide…

    ….or at least that seems to be an increasingly prevalent point of view amongst the populous. It’s important stuff, but as you surmise, even for those with some remaining semblance of common sense on this issue the bread and circuses can distract, as no doubt they are designed to do.

    Anyway, this is off-topic, so I will bow out now.

  • Mike

    @Eddie G.

    I don’t disagree with everything you said, just the mixing of being transgender with sexual orientation. They aren’t really related. It really is about gender (that male/female checkbox) and the reality is more complex and nuanced than people making bathroom laws are comfortable admitting. Those people are comfortable in their fantasy world where there are only two genders and everybody follows those unwritten rules.

    Whether Leah acted “professionally” or not depends on circumstances we aren’t privy to. Seeing a friend mistreated would definitely make me rethink doing business with an organization, no matter their reputation. I might even call them out publicly if I felt strongly about it, using any platform I had access to. Being an independent open source developer means “professionalism” is really a non-sequitur anyway, since interactions are typically informal and at-will, rather than predefined business relationships with employers, co-workers, partners, etc.

    The stuff about privacy and the internet of things I agree with you completely about, just don’t think it has anything to do with this story.

  • @Eddie G: Sorry, did you just describe Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell as a good policy that should serve as a model for everybody else to follow?

  • Rasmus

    As Torvalds once said: “I think people who get offended should be offended”

    I’m not saying you should not stand up for yourself or others with whom you sympathize. I’m saying that some people are just sitting there hoping to be provoked or offended by something. I do not know why they do it, but i’ve observed it many times. It’s like the fat kid who eats chocolate chip cookies all the time, then you stop one day, and in your attempt to make conversation prompt: “You sure like cookies huh?” To which he reacts by getting redfaced and yelling “don’t call me fat you ******” then he goes home cries himself to sleep because the world is an evil place, and then proceeds to eat more cookies because they are the only thing that helps.

    There are a lot of people like that around. They will hook on anything which might be considered sensitive for them, and they will always end up offended because they think people are never joking in good spirits, or just posing a query because they are genuinely interested. Oh no, they are clearly doing everything they can to hurt them, and be mean and cruel.

    so many of these around to greater or lesser degrees, and they have become this way for warying reasons I’m sure. That doesn’t change a thing, really, their behaviour is still their own responsibility.

    And sure, i don’t know the details, but this sounds very much like a case of the above, and if i had to guess, i’d say someones opinion could not be tolerated by Leah in this case, which is kind of funny since Leah clearly seems to believe to his/hers entitlement in his/hers own. Ironic.

  • @Rasmus: I respect Linus Torvalds a great deal as a programmer. But if you’re citing him as an authority on interpersonal communication skills, you have made a mistake somewhere.

  • tracyanne

    @Thad
    January 11, 2017 at 12:50 pm

    The biggest problem with “Don’t ask, Don’t Tell” is that those in charge never wanted to understood what it means, which is “It’s none of my Fu*king business anyway”