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Heed the Prophet Stallman, oh Software Sinners!
May 11th, 2017

Heed the Prophet Stallman, oh Software Sinners!

We’re reasonably certain this wasn’t written by the hand of any god. Then again, we haven’t personally met any gods, so how would we know? All we know for sure is that as some good book almost said, “The truth shall make you chuckle.”

Richard Stallman RMS

Roblimo’s Hideaway

“REPENT!”

It’s easy to imagine Richard M. Stallman yelling “Repent, ye software sinners!” as he stands on a mountaintop, wearing flowing robes and raising a hand-carved wooden staff toward the sky — with lightning and thunderheads swirling around him, of course. Meanwhile, the Israelites — I mean computer users — cower in the valley below, worried that The Lord shall smite them for the sin of using proprietary software.

To me, Richard (RMS if you prefer) is much like a prophet. Read your Torah (what some call the “old testament”) and you’ll see what I mean. Beard? Check. Jewish Prophets have beards. It’s right there in the original (and never translated) Hebrew manual that YHWH gives to all (male) prophets when He selects them. You also have to be a Jew. Again, check. Willingness to have people cast stones at you? Check, check, and check. Happy to buck popular trends? RMS gets nearly infinite checks on this one. Robes are optional, but we’ve seen him wear them. More than once.

This is not an original thought. Or maybe it is, since I first likened RMS to a traditional Hebrew prophet back when he was not nearly as well-known as he is today, and all other mentions of this metaphor I’ve seen came later than my original one. But it doesn’t matter. Prophets are prophets, typically from birth (same as Dalai Lamas). It is scary to imagine a baby Richard crying “Wah! GNU’s not Unix! Wah!” His mother was probably horrified as well, poor woman. But somehow, Baby Richard managed to grow into an adult computer person at MIT, where one day he did the equivalent of overturning the moneychangers’ tables and started preaching the Gospel of Free Software.

Editor’s note: “The Gospel of Free Software” contains two main errors: 1) It is self-described as “Fun,” which it may be in a way, but it is dead-serious at its core; and 2) “St. IGNUcius” is a misbegotten attempt to equate The Prophet RMS with a Jesus-come-lately religion that enjoyed a brief flowering during Roman times — even though we all know that RMS, like all prophets named in the Torah, is Jewish.

We Unwashed Masses have a long history of ignoring the prophets YHWH sends to us. RMS has accumulated at least as many followers (as a percentage of the world’s population) as prophets in the days of yore. He founded a persistent organization to spread his word. He may not have entirely vanquished the Devil, but no doubt helped him decide to step down from his position at Microsoft. Still, both Microsoft and Windows still exist, and GNU/Linux is about as successful in the world of desktop operating systems (based on its number of users) as Judaism is among world religions. In other words, influential but not terribly widespread. (Sigh.)

But does popularity matter to a prophet? Of course not! Does the number of adherents to a religion have anything to do with whether YHWH considers it a True Faith? I would hope not!

Whether or not we are followers, we should honor Richard M. Stallman as just about the only true prophet the software world has produced so far. We pray to the Holy GNU in his name, like this: “There is no software but Free Software, and Stallman is its prophet. Hallelujah!”

Few of us will ever live up to Richard’s spiritual example or follow every tenet laid out in The Gospel of Free Software. The best we mere mundanes can do is try — and work especially hard to avoid egregious sins like melting our jewelry down into raw gold and using it to build a golden Windows computer or something similarly evil.

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Robin "Roblimo" Miller

Robin "Roblimo" Miller is a freelance writer and former editor-in-chief at Open Source Technology Group, the company that owned SourceForge, freshmeat, Linux.com, NewsForge, ThinkGeek and Slashdot, and until recently served as a video editor at Slashdot. Now he's mostly retired, but still works part-time as an editorial consultant for Grid Dynamics, and (obviously) writes for FOSS Force.

39 comments to Heed the Prophet Stallman, oh Software Sinners!

  • Mike

    *sigh*

    While I know this article was meant at least partially tongue-in-cheek, once again I am left speculating what the real point is meant to be.

    There are already enough wackadoodles out there who truly believe that anyone who takes Free Software seriously is some sort of religious nut and that Stallman is some sort of cult leader. We don’t need more.

    The anti-gnu crowd are the ones who display cult-like behavior, parroting their talking points (dogma) with little to no understanding of reality.

  • dgrb

    A friend of mine had RMS to stay for the weekend a few years ago, while RMS was visiting the UK.

    “How was that?” I asked.

    “He is never coming to our house again” was the reply.

    He also had to call someone at another UK university with a message about RMS’s visit. He got through to the guy’s wife. When he mentioned RMS, her only response was “Oh God!”

  • Brian Becker

    From the mouth of Freedom:

    “‘Linux’, is in fact, GNU slash Linux, or as I’ve recently taken to calling it, GNU plus Linux. Linux is not an operating system unto itself, but rather another free component of a fully functioning GNU system made useful by the GNU core libs, shell utilities and vital system components comprising a full OS (operating system) as defined by POSIX.”

  • Hunkah

    We “should honor Richard M. Stallman” ???

    They guy is a joke. Mostly he sounds like a drunk guy in a subway. Hardly sent by YHWH… just because he puts on dirty robes and barks at a fire hydrant, doesn’t make him a prophet. Why do you think GNU hasn’t gotten the support it deserves? No business wants to follow a lunatic. He’s ignorant, crass and tries too hard to push his opinions and views on people. Some businesses can’t operate under a “free” license. Some can, but need to tie down a portion of it.

  • Hunkah

    The only thing I appreciate is what he’s fighting for. Many of us promote, give of our time, give of our finances, donate code, donate projects and software to this cause. I do this not only in the software world, but in everything else I do. I offer free lessons to the other things I’m involved with. I put down my own money to promote these things as well.

    One man doesn’t make a nation. We all have to work together to be the best we can be, to make a positive change. Just because a hippie dresses up in a rug, does’t make him godly.

    The kernel is most of an operating system. The amount of money and hours poured into Linux far outweigh the GNU portion. Linux is what makes this operating system what it is.

  • @Hunkah: “The kernel is most of an operating system. The amount of money and hours poured into Linux far outweigh the GNU portion. Linux is what makes this operating system what it is.”

    Is it? Because Debian GNU/Linux and Debian GNU/kFreeBSD feel a lot more like the same OS to me than Debian GNU/Linux and Android do.

    This is not to take away from Linux, from Torvalds, or from any of its other many dedicated developers. But let’s not trivialize the importance of the userland.

  • Mike

    That didn’t take long…

    @Hunkah

    > The kernel is most of an operating system. The amount of money and hours poured into Linux far outweigh the GNU portion.

    Money and hours are a measure of what, exactly? Microsoft has spent a lot of money and hours on Windows and we see where that led…

    gcc is almost as big as the kernel. Without this GNU project and many others, e.g. gdb, grub, bash, gtk+, etc. there would be no Linux, or at least very little that you would recognize as Linux.

    There is no Linux operating system.

    There are many GNU/Linux based operating systems, a few non-GNU/Linux based operating systems, and a few GNU/non-Linux systems.

  • Mike

    @Hunkah

    > They guy is a joke. Mostly he sounds like a drunk guy in a subway. … He’s ignorant, crass and tries too hard to push his opinions and views on people.

    Stallman? Or you?

    It’s pretty rich calling a guy ignorant who has a degree in Physics from Harvard, who worked in MIT’s AI Lab, who holds over a dozen honorary degrees, who mostly created the concept of Free Software and the GPL, and who helped produce a lot of early critical free software, like gcc, gdb, bash etc. without which Linux would not likely even exist.

  • Hunkah

    Wow, you guys are really touchy eh?

    An honorary degree is a bullshit degree. It’s not earned through taking courses at an institution, but then I don’t even agree with the educational system, so any arguments are worthless. I said he’s a joke, because he lacks the social graces and eloquence needed for someone in his position. Like I said, he comes across as a drunk guy in a subway. You would think that someone as smart as he is, that he would understand that crazy people aren’t taken seriously. He is supposed to be a representative of an important movement. But he looks and acts like he’s the representative for a bowel movement.

    Any arguments you guys have about GNU vs Linux vs GNU/Linux aren’t winning me over. Linux (as in the operating system project) was started by Linus in 1991. He has many more followers in his vision than Stallman has with his vision. Why do you think that is? Stallman wins over hippies and idiots that wear togas. I am always embarrassed for people like that. There is a reason why the name Linux is more common to non-geeks. It’s because businesses can’t work with Stallman’s vision.

    If I started an operating system project, and used Linux and the GNU pieces, who’s project is it? The GPL makes it my project. That’s why I love the GPL. Stallman should be happy with the popularity of Linux. Why? Because the GPL is awesome. It gives us all the freedom to do what we want to.

  • Mike

    @Hunkah,

    > Any arguments you guys have about GNU vs Linux vs GNU/Linux aren’t winning me over. Linux (as in the operating system project) was started by Linus in 1991.

    You overestimate yourself. Nobody is trying to win you over.

    I’m just correcting your egregious errors and ignoring your bullshit.

    Linux was never an operating system. Linus announced he intended to write an operating system, but never got past the kernel.

  • Mike

    @Hunkah

    > I don’t even agree with the educational system

    I don’t think it agrees with you either.

  • > If I started an operating system project, and used Linux and the GNU pieces, who’s project is it?

    What you are describing is not an operating system, it’s a software distribution. And an example wouldn’t be Linux, it would be Debian, Red Hat, Slackware, etc.

    Do you really not know the difference between a kernel, an operating system, and a software distribution? Because I suspect that you *do* know the difference and are just pretending not to in order to be irritating. In which case, good job, you succeed at irritating people by pretending to be ignorant; give yourself a pat on the back.

  • Mike

    @Thad

    He’s not pretending. He’s stupid.

  • Someone2345

    When you can’t destroy the message(Libre Software), you attack the messenger(RMS).

  • @Hunkah We don’t moderate much on FOSS Force, but this is a family friendly site. I’ve removed your last post because of the language you used.

    I would as everyone else to please not feed the trolls. It ALWAYS only escalates and you will not win your argument.

  • AJ

    So…..some people would rather pay extra for something they don’t even know?

    If that’s the case, how do you explain a software quotation or an invoice with a big number at the end? This is a case where your boss will say ‘no’ to your projects, especially if he/she is an IT literate person.

  • Yoda

    A coffee can hat too I want.

  • Yoda

    Regardless of what you think of Mr. Stallman, he’s made more of a positive impact in the world than you or I. I pretty sure the off center stuff is to get a rise from people because he’s bored.

  • Hans

    >If I started an operating system project, and used Linux and the GNU pieces, who’s project is it? The GPL makes it my project. That’s why I love the GPL. Stallman should be happy with the popularity of Linux. Why? Because the GPL is awesome. It gives us all the freedom to do what we want to.

    Hunkah, rms wrote the gpl so you ‘d better thank him for that.
    Linux became free (as in freedom) when Linus gpl’d it.

  • dtc

    I guess that Richard can survive yhour ham-handed attempt at sarcasm bordering on insult. Why you minor players think that you need to play this game is hard for me to fathom.

    The GPL in its many forms is the foundation of the legal protection for free software. Without it MS and Novell and Oracle and the rest would have “embraced and consumed” the efforts of free software developers and left them sitting on the roadside hoping for a ride back to civilization.

    RMS was key in the GPL development and adoption. I would think that a little respect was due. Sigh…. I guess the children have to be children. It is as depressing to me that you think this is the subject of not so nice pokes as it is to think that the U.S. has been taken over by people who don’t believe in the other freedoms we thought were safe.

  • Eddie G.

    RMS has his place in History, his antics don’t interest me, but his intelligence regarding the GPL, and Free Software does. I take what I need from his public speakings and writings, and ignore everything else. I don’t see why others can’t do the same. In regards to the “decades long” war over GNU and Linux? Listen..I don’t care what its called, I call it Linux, why? because when I’m introducing it to someone “Linux” is easier to say. Is GNU important to the entire Linux and FOSS world hell yes! Does it matter that I call it Linux when discussing it with people….co-workers…..and family? No. Not in the least. Will RMS continue to get his well deserved recognition for his contributions to the Open Source world? Always. Will people stop bickering over this topic like a schoolyard full of 6th graders? Not Likely.

  • Mike

    @Christine Hall

    > I would as everyone else to please not feed the trolls. It ALWAYS only escalates and you will not win your argument.

    It’s not about ‘winning’. It’s about making sure inaccurate information / lies are not left unchallenged. It is for the benefit of others.

  • Corrections can be made politely, without being argumentative.

  • Mike

    @Christine Hall

    Respect is earned, as is disrespect.

    This discussion started in http://fossforce.com/2017/04/libreboot-wants-back-into-gnu/#comments

    I think you’ll find that my first corrections were polite enough. They were followed by more stupid crap from Hunkah/Mailing.

    I’m polite when the situation calls for it, but it is by no means a requirement.

  • Timon19

    Nobody’s going to care what I say here, but I’ll tell you now as a lurker for quite a while, the behavior of posters like Mike and others is rather highly counterproductive, and I’m someone predisposed to agree with the message they are trying to deliver.

    Perhaps have a think on that. Eddie probably summarizes it best. This is very 6th-grader-y.

  • Mike

    @Timon19

    > Nobody’s going to care what I say here

    That’s not true. You’ve said some things in the past that I respect, even though I don’t often agree with your conclusions.

    > the behavior of posters like Mike and others is rather highly counterproductive

    Counterproductive to what, exactly? If you don’t agree with what I’m saying, then debate me. If you don’t like how I’m saying something, that’s not really my problem and I can’t help you.

  • Timon19

    It’s counterproductive to the aim of convincing anyone in the “audience”.

    I don’t necessarily, in broad strokes, disagree with what you say. I’m saying that HOW you say it isn’t bringing many “neutral” people to your side.

    You may not view that as your problem, but from lurking for so long, you seem to keep viewing people who disagree with you as too stupid to treat seriously and you rarely seem to alter your approach, which makes you as dogmatic and abrasive as anyone you’re trying to debate.

    If that’s how you want to roll, great, but don’t act surprised if you continue to get met with hostility.

  • @Timon19 Agree. I wish Mike would realize that resorting to name calling and carrying the same argument on forever because “he started it” doesn’t play. I agree almost 100% with what Mike says, but I’m getting extremely tired of him never dropping arguments with obvious trolls that are going absolutely nowhere. As for the juvenile name calling, it doesn’t matter if “he started it.” Two wrongs don’t make a right. Make your point and move on.

  • Mike

    @Timon19
    @Christine Hall

    I’m not interested in persuading people or making friends. I know some people enjoy/need for others to agree with them so they can feel like a team and take security in the whole ‘us vs. them’ experience, but I do not. I do enjoy debating, but more for the act itself than any desire to persuade. I would hope people make up their own minds based on facts/evidence out there. Anyone who would choose what to believe because of the nature or tone of the person presenting an argument is, in my opinion, a fool. I may seem dogmatic and abrasive to you, but I will very readily admit when I am proven wrong. Hostility doesn’t bother me in the least, typically just triggering in me a small degree of schadenfreude.

    Because you guys are bothered so much I will apologize to you and try to cool it down a bit, but I can’t promise to never to call an idiot an idiot. 🙂

  • Timon19

    Mike, I assure you I am not interested in formimg teams. Now, despite your protestations, the effect of the way you interact DOES EXACTLY THAT.

    As for your alleged willingness to admit defeat, I have yet to witness it. You may say that’s because you’ve never been “proven” wrong. Being very familiar with this sort of tactic, no one is going to achieve that level of evidence in your mind, and round and round we go.

    As for “being triggered”, dude, I’m a libertarian; many of us take this exact sort of shit to the highest of levels. You’re behaving like a deontological lib moderately on “The Spectrum”. That’s nothin’.

    I’m just hoping that we can get out of our own heads a bit and maybe help “normies” to think a bit differently.

    You keep doing what you do if that’s most important to you. Expect not to be taken as seriously as you seem to want to be.

  • Mike

    @Timon19

    (For Christine: I’m discussing, not arguing.)

    > Mike, I assure you I am not interested in formimg teams. Now, despite your protestations, the effect of the way you interact DOES EXACTLY THAT.

    Just to clarify: You mistook my intent as not wanting teams to form. That is not correct. I meant “I” have no interest in joining any teams. I literally do not care if others form teams or not. If someone wants to use something I said to justify taking a side on something, rational or irrational, then that’s their business.

    > As for your alleged willingness to admit defeat, I have yet to witness it. You may say that’s because you’ve never been “proven” wrong. Being very familiar with this sort of tactic, no one is going to achieve that level of evidence in your mind, and round and round we go.

    You are viewing me through a very narrow prism, namely comments on this site. Like everyone else I’ve been wrong about lots of things. I don’t however view being wrong as defeat. I take the most correct model and move forward. A continuous refinement of our thought process is the only system that makes any sense. Everything else is a lie we tell ourselves.

    > As for “being triggered”, dude, I’m a libertarian; many of us take this exact sort of shit to the highest of levels. You’re behaving like a deontological lib…

    I was confused by your use of “being triggered” until I re-read my own comment. I wasn’t considering the modern usage of that term when I wrote that. I merely meant that I sometimes find others’ hostility mildly amusing. Also, deontology could not be any further from my ethical beliefs.

    > You keep doing what you do if that’s most important to you. Expect not to be taken as seriously as you seem to want to be.

    Meh. Intelligent people will discern their own truths from the things they see/read/hear. Foolish people will continue to be led around by the nose via irrelevant details.

  • Timon19

    To be clear, I used the scare-quoted version of that term in reference to your suppostion that we/I are/am bothered. Your subsequent use of the term was merely suggestive to my response.

    As to the rest, you are very much exhibiting the behavior of a deontological libertarian on The Spectrum by the way you reply, so I guess I’ll cut my losses and just hope that at some point we can have a productive conversation about something that doesn’t inspire religious devotion to a perfect ideal.

  • Mike

    @Timon

    > To be clear, I used the scare-quoted version of that term in reference to your suppostion that we/I are/am bothered. Your subsequent use of the term was merely suggestive to my response.

    Ah, sorry for suggesting you were bothered. While apologizing I lumped you together with Christine who did indicate she was annoyed with me. Then I compounded the mistake by thinking you were referring to my use of the word ‘triggered’. Hey look, I was wrong. 🙂

    Deontology implies a belief in universal moral absolutes that I don’t subscribe to. I have a strong personal sense of right and wrong, but I don’t believe actions can have a inherent moral quality to them. Everyone is just flailing away in an ambivalent universe with a unique sense of right and wrong imbued by eons of genetic selective pressure.

  • Timon19

    You’re not reading carefully enough.

    We’re done here.

  • Mike

    I guess you are bothered after all. 🙂

    Maybe you aren’t writing carefully enough.

  • Timon19

    If you really feel the compulsion to keep responding, do it here and let’s stop bothering everyone else:
    [email protected]

  • tracyanne

    @No one in particular and totally off topic because, well this thread has wander off topic anyway

    >>>dude, I’m a libertarian; many of us take this exact sort of shit to the highest of levels. You’re behaving like a deontological lib… — Mike

    As an Australian, and a Socialist, I am quite amused by the “prickly” political banter we often see from our US cousins. Because from where I sit your Republicans, Libertarians and Democrats (I think those are the ones you refer to pejoratively as Liberals) make our Right Wing Liberal/National coalition party look like Socialists.

  • Mike

    @tracyanne

    I didn’t say that. That was Timon19.

  • tracyanne

    My apologies Mike I didn’t realise you were quoting that comment. Still the amusement is real.