In typical LibrePlanet fashion, even though forced online for the third year in a row by the pandemic, it remained true to its commitment to software freedom by streaming the event using only free and open source software.
On Saturday’s opening of this year’s two-day LibrePlanet convention, the Free Software Foundation announced the recipients of the 2021 Free Software Awards. The awards are handed out each year at the FSF-hosted event, to groups and individuals in the free and open source software community who have made significant contributions to software freedom.
This year’s recipients are computer scientist Paul Eggert, a faculty member at UCLA’s Samueli School of Engineering, Emacs contributor Protesilaos Stavrou, and SecuRepairs, an information security association involved in “right to repair” issues.
Due to the pandemic, for the third year in a row LibrePlanet played only to an online audience with no in-person attendees, which brought a bit of a twist to the awards ceremony. This year, each honoree selected the person they wanted to present them with their award.
Paul Eggert garnered this year’s trophy in the Advancement of Free Software category, which is “given to an individual who has made a great contribution to the progress and development of free software through activities that accord with the spirit of free software,” according to FSF.
Eggert has been a contributor to GNU projects for more than 30 years, and has contributed to projects such as the GNU Compiler Collection, better known as GCC. He is also the current maintainer of the Time Zone Database, a project not associated with GNU which provides accurate information on the world’s time zones.
“There are few people in the free software community who have had such a track record of consistent, excellent work,” FSF executive director Zoë Kooyman said in a recorded message honoring Eggert. “It isn’t just GNU who has benefited from his work, or everyone who uses the GCC. It also points to the importance of projects that we might take for granted. Every time our computers or phones ‘magically’ know where one time zone begins and another one ends, Paul’s work with TZDB comes in handy.”
In accepting the award, Eggert made one of the few references at LibrePlanet’s first day to Richard Stallman, the founder of both FSF and the GNU Project, who traditionally presented the awards. Stallman stepped down under fire as FSF’s leader in 2019, and generated controversy at last year’s conference when he unexpectedly announced that he had officially returned to the organization as a board member.
“I’m so honored to accept this award, especially given all the eminent people who have gotten it in the past,” Eggert said. “I also want to thank all the people who helped me do all this, including my teachers; my students, who have kept me enthusiastic in doing this work after all these years; Richard Stallman, who started the free software movement and the GNU Project; and all of the GNU developers I’ve worked with over the years like Jim Meyering. Last but not least, I’d like to thank my family, who’ve put up with me staring at the computer screen all these years.”
In addition to Jim Meyering (a GNU Coreutils maintainer since 1991), past winners of the Advancement of Free Software award include such open source and free software luminaries as Deborah Nicholson, Karen Sandler, Alexandre Oliva, Werner Koch, Sébastien Jodogne, Matthew Garrett, Dr. Fernando Perez, Yukihiro Matsumoto, Rob Savoye, John Gilmore, Wietse Venema, Harald Welte, Ted Ts’o, Andrew Tridgell, Theo de Raadt, Alan Cox, Larry Lessig, Guido van Rossum, Brian Paul, Miguel de Icaza, and Larry Wall.
Protesilaos “Prot” Stavrou
This was the third year for the Outstanding New Free Software Contributor award, which was first handed out at LibrePlanet 2020. This year the award went to Protesilaos “Prot” Stavrou, a native of Greece who is currently “nominally committed to agricultural activities in a remote mountainous region in Cyprus,” according to his blog.
In a release issued shortly after the awards were handed out, FSF said that “in a few short years [Stavrou] has become a mainstay of the GNU Emacs community through his blog posts, livestreams, conference talks, and code contributions.”
“I was not expecting it,” he said in a video of his acceptance, “just as I was not expecting to make any kind of contribution to GNU Emacs given my nontechnical background.”
“While this award is given to an individual, I think it actually is all about the community [and] how those unsung heroes have helped a given person achieve certain things,” he added.
The award for Projects of Social Benefit was given to SecuRepairs, an association of professionals working in the information security industry who support “right to repair” devices and software. The organization provides advice on information security issues such as data privacy as they pertain to repairing devices and software, and works to help combat the anti-right-to-repair narrative spread by large hardware manufacturers such as John Deere.
According to FSF, the award is given to projects or teams that are responsible for applying free software (or the ideas of the free software movement) to intentionally and significantly benefit society.
SecuRepairs founder, technology journalist Paul Roberts accepted the award.
“Right to repair is about declaring once and for all that we are the owners of our stuff — our phones, our laptops, our home appliances, television sets, automobiles, and farm equipment,” he said. “We are not tenants of multinational corporations who want to sell us things and then dictate the conditions and terms under which we can use them.”
The award was presented by Kooyman.
“The right to repair movement is closely connected with the free software movement,” she said. “Both strive to put the most important parts of our technical lives under the control of users rather than corporations, and I’m delighted to see SecuRepairs conferred with this award.”
Online Event Streamed Using Only Free Software
Although online conferences have become commonplace during the pandemic, LibrePlanet has the distinction of perhaps being the first online conference to only use free software to stream their speakers’ presentations across the globe — three at a time simultaneously.
The awards, which are normally handed out in-person, will be mailed to the recipients, along with a custom piece of art, LibrePlanet said.
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