richard stallman cryptocurrency blockchain gnu

This talk was presented at LibrePlanet.

libreplanet.org

LibrePlanet is the Free Software Foundation’s annual conference. The FSF campaigns for free/libre software, meaning it respects users’ freedom and community. We believe that users are entitled to this; all software should be free.

gnu.org/important

We do not advocate “open source”.

That term was coined to reject our views. It refers to similar practices, but usually presented solely as advantageous, without talking of right and wrong.

gnu.org/not-open-source

Richard Stallman launched the free software movement in 1983 by announcing development of the free operating system, GNU. By 1992, GNU was nearly operational; one major essential component was lacking, the kernel.

gnu.org/gnu-begin

In 1992, Torvalds freed the kernel Linux, which filled the last gap in GNU.


Echoing his GPL, Stallman would like to see Javascript code for web services distributed with its original source code, which can then be modified by the end user.

The problem for Stallman is that while free browsers – Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, and Chrome – warn the user about the presence of “non-trivial” Javascript code – such as a banner ad – and can disable it, they don’t alert the user to the presence of hidden Javascript in web services.

Stallman has proposed a plan of action. First is to define what’s meant as a “non-trivial” Javascript program, which he thinks should be something that: “Defines methods and either loads an external script or is loaded as one, or if it makes an AJAX request.”

Then, the browsers themselves need to change to let users detect such code and specify which Javascript code they’d like to run – the original or a modified form.

Google Docs means you many be running Javascript code on your machine that’s not free without realizing it. He pointed to Google Docs that downloads a half-megabyte Javascript program to your machine as an example.

“Even in the free software community most users are not aware of this issue; the browsers’ silence tends to conceal it,” Stallman has written.

The warning echoes a similar call by Stallman in 2004 to beware of inadvertently downloading Sun Microsystems’ Java, before Java was open-sourced.

Stallman, who formulated the Gnu General Public License (GPL) and founded the Free Software Foundation (FSF), has proposed a system whereby browsers would identify “non-trivial” Javascript code that’s not free and then allow the browser to run a modified version of the code instead of the original.

For Stallman, the crux of the issue is what counts as “free”.

Talking to Coindesk, Stallman said that while he likes the idea of making purchases anonymously from various kinds of stores, the existing process is flawed.

He said that using a crypto exchange would allow that company and ultimately the government to identify him.

Privacy coins were also flawed for either security or its scalability issues.

Stallman continued: “If Bitcoin protected privacy, I’d probably have found a way to use it by now.”

“I wouldn’t want perfect privacy”, Stallman says in the interview, “because that would mean it would be impossible to investigate crimes at all.

Richard Stallman is a big name in the technology sector. The software developer and political activist is best known for his creation during the early 1980s of the GNU Project, which combined with Linus Torvalds’ kernel programming efforts in the early 1990s to form what we today refer to as the GNU/Linux operating system.

Stallman also founded the associated Free Software Foundation in the mid-1980′s and is the original author of a bunch of popular software projects — such as the Emacs text editor (although it does far more than that) and the GNU Compiler Collection.

In October Stallman will visit Australia to speak — among other events — at UNSW’s Clancy Auditorium in an event being supported by National ICT Australia.

But we got in touch with Stallman ahead of time for a chat about the Government’s internet filter project, free software and why he likes to visit Australia for its parrots.

Going back to 2005, there was a strong debate going on in Australia about the potential for individuals and organisations to use the GNU/Linux operating system as a desktop replacement for Microsoft’s Windows platform. Since that time, in Australia, the debate has gradually died down, although the maturity of the GNU/Linux desktop and its degree of user friendliness has only increased.

Does this trend disappoint you, and how could the free software community best seek to reverse it?

I have no independent knowledge about this.
If you are right, I hope my speaking tour will direct attention back to the question.

The GNU/Linux system makes it possible to use a computer and have freedom, but in order to realize this benefit, you need to take care to avoid installing nonfree programs.

Should the free software community even seek to reverse this trend, or should it instead focus on other angles of attack — such as on the burgeoning smartphone platform, for example?

Smartphones are computers on which users install software. Just as on a PC or server, the user of a smartphone deserves free software.
Winning this freedom is our goal, and it applies to all kinds of computers.

The importance of this was reinforced by a report which investigated many gratis apps for the iGroan and Android, and found that 1/3 of them had spyware. The article characterised these apps as “free”, but I presume it meant “gratis”.

August 2021.

  • ^“Taler licensing information”.
  • ^“Taler – Free Software Directory”.
  • ^“GNU Taler 0.0.0 Released: GNU Tries To Get Into Electronic Payments”.
  • ^“GNU cryptocurrency aims at ‘the mainstream economy not the black market'”.
  • ^ ab“FAQ: How is Taler related to Bitcoin or Blockchains?”.
  • ^“GNU Taler: Ethical Online Payments for the Internet Age”. ercim-news.ercim.eu. Retrieved 2020-04-23.
  • ^Sprint, Book (2016-05-19).
    Cost of Freedom. Lulu.com. ISBN 978-1-365-08698-4.
  • ^“Halbanonymes Bezahlsystem: GNU Taler soll Kryptowährungen gerechter machen – Golem.de”. www.golem.de (in German). Retrieved 2020-01-03.
  • ^“Stallman’s final interview as FSF president: Last week we quizzed him over Microsoft visit.
  • Has Australia taken China as its model? Australians should stop being distracted by the minor issue of refugees that come from Asia, and start focusing on the real threat: tyrannical government policies that come from Asia.

    Australians’ freedom of association has been damaged by laws supposedly directed against “terrorism”. Governments must not have the power to arbitrarily label a group as “terrorist” and then punish people for having a relationship with the group.
    This power endangers anyone that supports a cause the government might like to ban.

    If the state suspects some group of terrorism, it should have to prove that in court before it can take any action against the group and its members.

    It has been a long time since we saw Red Hat doing anything against software patents. Here’s one article among several on this subject:

    Red Hat is reportedly considering using blockchain to track customer use of its cloud service in real time.

    A patent filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office explains how the company would track transactions on its platforms to bill customers based on their usage. Because records in a blockchain can’t be changed, the data could be more accurate than using other methods.

    “The examples record, in a blockchain, a billing rules transaction that identifies usage rules for one or more software instance types for a timeframe.

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