Stallman: Free software battling for hearts and minds

Stallman: Free software battling for hearts and minds

Summary: Interview: Richard Stallman on the ethics of free software and fighting the mega-corporations...


...the adoption of GNU/Linux is merely a secondary concern and a "means to an end" for freedom.

"When I launched the development of the GNU system, I explicitly said the purpose of developing this system is so we can use our computers and have freedom, thus if you use some other free system instead but you have freedom, then it's a success. It's not popularity for our code but it's success for our goal.

"As you can see, most users of computing still don't have freedom. So although we've achieved a tremendous amount, we have a long way to go until we have liberated all of cyberspace."

Free software in education and business

Despite the progress that has been made by the free software movement, Stallman says practical and philosophical obstacles remain.

Richard Stallman believes schools should not teach using proprietary software

Richard Stallman believes teaching with proprietary software should never be tolerated in schoolsPhoto: Shutterstock

Looking at practical challenges, Stallman said schools teaching with proprietary software is a major problem because it goes against the social mission of schools to "educate good citizens of a strong, capable, independent, co-operating and free society".

"Just as schools shouldn't hand out tobacco with lunch, they shouldn't teach proprietary software because that's teaching dependence and that's contrary to the social mission of the school," he said.

Stallman added that proprietary software is "knowledge withheld from the students" and should never be tolerated in schools.

"Also, because schools must teach the spirit of goodwill, the habit of helping others around you, every class should have this rule: students, if you bring software to class you may not keep it for yourself. You must share copies with the rest of the class, including the source code in case somebody wants to learn - because the class is a place where we share our knowledge."

The use of free software in schools will also help people who have the potential to be good programmers develop their skills due to the freedom it gives them to modify and distribute it.

Several states in India have moved schools to use free software, while Ecuador is another country cited by Stallman as leading this kind of change.

In the business world, most companies use proprietary software in some shape or form but Stallman aims to change this status quo by campaigning for people to make small gestures – such as refusing to open Word documents - that demonstrate the problems with proprietary software.

He said the best thing to do when you receive a Word file is...

Topics: Apps, Software Development

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  • yeah! all we want free software