Software Freedom Crusader Richard Stallman on Canadian tour

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radiorahim radiorahim's picture
Software Freedom Crusader Richard Stallman on Canadian tour

Richard Stallman, president of the "Free Software Foundation", author of the GNU General Public License, founder of the "GNU Project" which gave rise to the "GNU/Linux" operating system and global crusader for the freedoms of computer users will be doing a cross-Canada speaking tour towards the end of this month (January) and early February.

Dates (so far) are as follows:

January 24th - Montreal - Omni-Mont Royal Hotel

January 26th - Montreal - 1450 Boulevard de Maisonneuve (room number and time to be confirmed)

January 27th - Halifax - Dalhousie University

January 29th - Waterloo - University of Waterloo

February 2nd - Toronto - To be announced

February 3rd - Calgary - University of Calgary

February 6th - Vancouver - George F. Curtis Law Building

February 7th - Vancouver - UBC

Watch this page for further details:




Looks interesting!  Why no venue in Toronto yet?  Still looking for a place?

radiorahim radiorahim's picture

Looks like there's a venue now in Toronto at the Bahen Centre at 40 St. George St. 5-7pm...looks like it might be hosted by the Computer Science Department at the U of T.

Toronto talk is on "Copyright vs. Community".

I'll be there :)




Frustrated Mess Frustrated Mess's picture

Short notice.

Agent 204 Agent 204's picture

You Torontonians! Waterloo isn't close enough for ya?

Now if you were in Winnipeg, like I am, that complaint might ring true.


I don't agree with the concept.

What about all the workers that work long hours creating software?
Shouldn't they be paid a decent wage for the work that they put in?

What would happen to those people? Who would bother developing software, if pirated versions could be made and distributed legally?

Now, if you wanted a moderate solution, you could say that the software becomes public domain after five years.


(Getting out the popcorn...)

Frustrated Mess Frustrated Mess's picture

Oh, put the popcorn away. That's just too stupid to consider. Like, why would anyone learn the stars? How would an astronomer earn a living? Why would anyone learn to read? How would talking book makers make a living?

And, confusing freesoftware with software piracy is simply a very good indication of someone proving they haven't a clue what they're talking about. Frankly, it ain't worth the effort ...



Hi FM, 

Perhaps you should take a look at the site more closely, as I did. 

They do some good things which I hadn't noticed, but they are also advocating for the end of software patents, which I don't agree with. 

Clearly they believe that their should be no patents on software and that people should have the freedom to copy, pirate etc. 


KeyStone wrote:

I don't agree with the concept.

What about all the workers that work long hours creating software?
Shouldn't they be paid a decent wage for the work that they put in?

But they are paid and usually receive bonuses for jobs well done. I think that unless the idea is truly original, and doesnt already exist in nature as one concept or another, then it can't or at least shouldnt be patented. A lot of code is re-used and recycled over and over anyway by software engineers, designers, and developers. Why waste time and effort reinventing the wheel if what you're trying to do has already been done, and especially if you dont have to worry about being sued at every turn? I think that in a number of years' time, we'll see software generation packages that take all the most difficultwork out of coding altogether. Kids will be designing their own virtual reality games and virtual worlds, which is already happening. In time, nothing will be new under the sun as far as software development in concerned. And software design will be the domain of very technical areas of economy, scientific research etc.  

 I think a future advanced society would be better served by freely accessible information, and that should include the freedom to design and create without legal restrictions, and without fear of fascist legal bureaucracies. Free is the root of all freedoms. And that's my two cents worth on s/w patents.

radiorahim radiorahim's picture

KeyStone wrote:

 They do some good things which I hadn't noticed, but they are also advocating for the end of software patents, which I don't agree with. 

Clearly they believe that their should be no patents on software and that people should have the freedom to copy, pirate etc. 

It is virtually impossible to write any "non-trivial" software programme today without having an army of patent lawyers to make sure that your software programme doesn't violate anybody elses software patent.

When I say "non-trivial" what I mean is any software programme that does anything more than add up a column of numbers and divide it by three.   And maybe even then you'd be in trouble! 

Writing software these days has become legally have to be constantly looking over your shoulder to make sure that somebody isn't going to sue you...and that's whether you're writing proprietary software or "free" software.

Aside from the threat of being sued by a "normal" software corporation,  you're also at risk of being sued by various "patent trolls"...folks who simply buy up patents with the idea of making money suing people.

The net result is that software patents have become an impediment to the development of new software.    Ask Microsoft!  I wouldn't for a nanosecond defend the activities of Microsoft...and they're also a major corporate force pushing for software patents.   But...they've been sued for patent infringements more often that just about anyone.   They just happen to have very deep pockets...can pay any legal fees or just "buy up" whoever happens to be suing them.

Most software developers are not in that kind of position.

There are no "original" software ideas.    All software is built upon the ideas of others that came before.   

In the EU, software is considered unpatentable.   And that's a good thing.  In the U.S. (and in Canada) software patents are allowed.   Very often the U.S. patent office is so overwhelmed with patent applications that none of them are examined in any detail...they're just "rubber stamped".

So, there are all kinds of overlapping patents in the U.S.

One of the particularly bizarre things that happens is that European software companies will launch patent infringement lawsuits in the U.S. that aren't allowed in Europe.

So the Free Software Foundation is very correct IMHO. Software patents should not be allowed.

As for what the Free Software Foundation believes in, they believe in freedom for computer users...freedom for you.



The freedom to run a software programme for any purpose as you wish.

Try installing the MacOSX operating system on a PC and offering them for sale.   Apple will sue you very quickly.   You as a computer user don't have the freedom to use this software that you legally purchased in the way that you might like to.

Try to simultaneously connect more than ten computers on a network to a computer running Windows XP.   Microsoft Windows XP will lock out the eleventh computer you try to connect.   This might not be a problem in the home, but it is a problem in organizations.

If you use Microsoft Windows in this way they consider it to be a "server" computer and expect you to buy a copy of a Windows Server operating system.

Users of free software GNU/Linux operating systems don't have to worry about this.   You can use your GNU/Linux operating system to run a desktop, notebook or a server.   That's because it's "free software".

When Windows Vista was first released there were alot of pieces of computer hardware that didn't work with it because there were no "Vista certified" device drivers.

A company put out some software that allowed you to override Vista's settings and use "uncertified" hardware.   What did Microsoft do?   They pushed through a "Windows Update" that shut this software down.

With free software, you control your computer.


The freedom to study the source code of the software and change it if you like.

No proprietary software gives you this freedom.   Sometimes proprietary software has malicious features.   The U.S. National Security Agency collaborated with Microsoft in the creation of Windows Vista.   How much do you trust the NSA with your computer?

If you use Real Player or Windows Media Player it "phones home to Mama" and reports on every single file you've played.   Is it any of any mega-software corporation's business what you are watching or listening to?   With proprietary software you give away your privacy rights.   With free (as in freedom) software VLC Media Player you don't.

All software contains bugs.  These days software contains millions and perhaps billions of lines of computer code.   It's impossible for it not to contain bugs.   With proprietary software nobody other than the software developer has access to the computer code...and there's no easy way for anyone other than the developer to find out if software contains either malicious features...or bugs.

With free software you have the ability (if you have the skill) to examine the source code of the software.   If you personally don't have these skills, you can always pay a programmer to examine the software source code and change it to add or remove features if you want to.

Many large software companies (IBM, Novell, Red Hat, Sun Microsystems etc.) pay people to do exactly this.


The freedom to help your neighbour by redistributing copies of the software.

If you stand at the corner of Yonge & Bloor in Toronto and hand out copies of "Microsoft Office" to folks that walk by, Microsoft will sue you very quickly.    If you do the exact same thing with "Open Office", the Open Office team will cheer you on...maybe even help you.

Which model is better for the social solidarity of our society?   One where sharing is considered a virtue...or one where sharing software is considered an illegal act..."illegal sharing".

As a kid, I was taught to share my toys.   Mega-software corporations (and others) want to make the simple human act of sharing it "piracy".   They are turning what I would consider basic human values upside down.


The freedom to improve the programme if you wish, and release your improved version to the public.

Needless to say no proprietary software gives you this freedom.

If a software programme contains all four of these fundamental freedoms without restricting them in any substantive way, the FSF considers it to be "free software".   Note that I didn't say anything about's "free as in freedom" as opposed to "free as in free beer".

Although the truth of the matter is, that most "free as in freedom" software also happens to be "free as in free beer".

Software released under the FSF's "GNU General Public License" goes a step further and "copyleft's" the software.   If you modify a free software programme, you are required to release your modified source code to the public.   The freedoms you received, you must pass on to others.  Freedom becomes viral...and that IMHO is a good thing.

Some free software licenses don't require you to pass on the freedom.   The Free BSD license is one of these.   MacOSX is built upon FreeBSD Unix code.   Apple has modified this code, but there's no requirement for them to pass along this modified code...and they don't.

Why is any of this important?   It's because our interactions with our fellow human beings are increasingly being done in cyberspace...through the use of software.   People work, play, entertain and educate themselves, politically and socially organize, and even try to enhance their love lives through the use of software.

If nobody has any kind of access to the building blocks of these tools other than a few mega-corporation software developers, then we surrender control over our digital lives to these corporations.  We have no easy way to find out what they are doing...and if we try we risk being sued or prosecuted.

There have been many attempts over the centuries to codify people's social and human rights.    The GNU General Public License represents one of the first attempts to codify the kind of rights that computer users should have.   IMHO these four freedoms are things that progressive thinking folks should understand and become familiar with.












Okay, as someone working for one of the big open source proponents, a few quick points from my perspective. Be advised, I deal less on the software end of things and more on the application / systems end of things;

 1 - Open source does not mean free. For example, Solaris / Open Solaris is free to use, however if you want support and patches, you have to have a support contract, which costs money. Actually, it costs more for some Linux Distributions / Unix Distributions than it does for Windows Server. I am really, really boiling this down to a simple point, if anyone wants me to go into detail, PM me. Key line here - Selling Software and Hardware does not make you money, selling support and service contracts does. Wth a lot of variants of Linux / Unix, the basic kernel and core is free, but people's addons (for example the things bundled with Red Hat Enterprise) are not. 

2 - Open source is not always a good thing. - I don't mean in a patent/ freedom sort of way. I come from the Enterprise IT world, where things are set in stone, are used a certain way and have to meet standards. The last thing I would want, is people modifying applications, software, programmes, source code to make things work better or configure them. This becomes unmanagable (Read the Practical Guide to System and Network Administration, its a really good read on stuff like this.). Yes, we all want cost savings. Point is, its easier to control closed source to streamline administration and maintenance, lowering the Total Cost of Ownership.

 3 - Open source developers are not all people working at their lesure. Sun Microsystems pays their developers really well, it also produces a rock solid operating system. It is free to distribute.

4 - Open Source can be the downfall of someone. This is more point two than anything, with certain things yes, you could probably code somthing better or shorter using the framework of a programme, yet if it blows up in your face, well its a lot harder for the origional developer to help you or to fix things.  See point two. For example, you have a company, you have a choice of two systems, one closed source, and one open source. The closed source system works, as does the open source one. However you take the open source system, add a bunch of things, remove a bunch of things, tweak it, it works great, and then you get fired / leave/ go on vacation / are at home and it breaks. You are the only one who can support it, all of a sudden your company is losing money because of this. 

 This does not mean that open source is bad, infact I like it, I run in a Hybrid enviroment at work (Windows / Unix) as well as my home network is a Hybrid Microsoft and Unix shop.  A lot of the open source applications I personally run (Database, Network Monitoring) are far more individually tailored to my needs rather than a closed source provider, however even so, there is an element of control. In some cases, open source and closed source can exist in tandem, each offering features and benefits, for example Oracle and MySQL. Oracle has its advantages in closed source, being that it is designed for stability, uniformity and support, while MySQL has the greater potential for changes. 

Personally, I like the middle road. There are advantages to both. Microsoft is not the devil, it does what it is designed to do, its easy to use and its not configurable, making it easy to support, yes, there is a cost to it, however its like a set of legos that come assembled, or a preassembled model kit. Its nice, its pretty and it doesn't take any work / much work to put it on display.  Open source is like buying the legos/model kit and having to put it together.


For example,I use Microsoft on my personal laptop, my gaming machine and my file box, the reason is, I don't like to mess around with these, they are for my enjoyment and the out of the box closed source applications work, and work with most others (Standardization you know). I may find Windows personally inefficient, however it does what I paid for it to do.

On my web, database and network monitoring boxes I run Unix and Linux, as well as mostly open source applications, not because I wouldn't pay for closed source, but because they work for what they are designed to do. I have the possibility to edit and change things and improve upon things, yes, but they also suit the bill. 


We can get into economics, computer theory, physics, artistic design, sociology whatever with this debate, but thats for another day eh? I'll boil it down, all Relational Database Systems are based off of a theory that is free and open, however they add upon it. All ethernet cards are based upon an open standard. No matter what, anyone can build somthing open source or closed source, it is really hard to reinvent the wheel you know?


Its really a deep issue and I could go on for hours and hours on this, if anyone wants me to go deeper into this, well message me. 

radiorahim radiorahim's picture

IanM the issues you raise are why I reject the "open source" philosophy.

The term "open source" was coined in 1998 to de-politicize "free software".   To those following the "open source" philosophy, the principle values are  about how much something costs or doesn't cost and how well it runs.   Open source advocates will argue that the co-operative method of software development is "technically the best" way to develop software.

But these aren't IMHO the most important issues.

In the English language (and the English language sucks in this situation), the word "free" has two meanings.   One meaning "doesn't cost anything" and the other meaning "freedom" as in "free speech".    It's the latter use of the term that the FSF is using.    The GNU GPL doesn't say anything at all about money.  

The free software movement was not established for technical or cost reasons, it's primary goals were political i.e. guaranteeing freedom for people who use computers...and specifically, the "four freedoms" that are contained in the GNU General Public License.

The "open source" folks thought that if you de-politicized free software that it would become more "business friendly" and that more of them would use it.

It might even be true that they've achieved this to some degree...but at the cost of losing the ethical and social values of the original free software movement.  

The "Open Source Initiative" (OSI)'s "Open Source Definition" (OSD) is written so loosely that even Microsoft has had a couple of it's licenses approved as meeting the open source definition.

BTW, the Sun Solaris operating system has not been released under the GNU General Public License, it's been released under something called the "CDDL"...although admittedly, for some time Sun has been talking about releasing Solaris under the GNU GPL.  If they do, that would definitely be a good thing.

Microsoft and Apple might be able to make an argument that their software is technically "better" or has a lower "total cost of ownership" (Microsoft spends millions of dollars advertising this view) argument that for the most part I think is hogwash...but nevertheless they're free to make it.

But Microsoft and Apple along with other proprietary software developers can never argue that they give you more freedom...because they don't and never will.  They're not in the "freedom business".

And again, in a society where social interactions are increasingly done through the use of software,  if nobody aside from the developer is free to figure out what's being done, then we surrender control over an increasingly significant part of our lives to proprietary software vendors.  

That IMHO is definitely not a good thing.  It's not a way to develop a good society.

Frustrated Mess Frustrated Mess's picture

I come from the otherside. I buy software/hardware and manage an IT environment.

I would dispute that Open Source/Free Software is more expensive. We actively pursue it and only resort to MS when there remains no other option.

For example, our subscription with Novell for SUSE server is expensive and more expensive than the MS licenses for Server 2008.

But ... with the approx. $5,000 I pay, I get unlimited user licenses for file access. I can deploy as many thin clients as I like. I am not required to sign away rights giving Novell the right to enter my employer's premises to audit for compliance. And we get unlimited support.

More than that, we have several additional Ubuntu servers providing critical tasks that cost us nothing more than a free machine and some time to set up and configure.

On standards, My God! Are you serious? Free/Open Software is all about standards. Standards are broken, when they are broken, by propietary software developers, like MS, to enforce lock-in. "Want that software to work? Then you can only use this software ... " It is MS that breaks, with every new release, interoperability while Open/Free Software strives for interoperability.

Your point four is total FUD. What nonsense. Ensuring a business remains operable in the event of disaster or failure is dependent on three things and only three things: data integrity, failover, and documentation.

I use Linux on my personal notebook and I fully rely upon it as I like to get work done. 

In the work environment we now have several linux workstations and we are slowly increasing the numbers.

The result is lower costs, higher productivity, and lower risk from malware and viruses.



Fustrated-Mess, Just a quick question as an aside- What sort of business are you working in? It gives me a point of reference. I mean just a general industry here, I deal a lot with Banks, Telcos, Government clients. I know that different businesses have different priorities in regards to how they impliment an IT system.

By the way, just as an aside, how do you find Ubuntu Server? I haven't read to much on it, or heard too much on it yet? Is it worth it at this point, or does it have a way to go?

Also, FUD? I don't get it?

Anyways, enough derailing;


Also, on the Sun Solaris released under CDDL- Solaris for SPARC I don't believe can be released for open source under the GNU License due to the fact that it is mated to the hardware (which is composed of the Hardware Kernel containing your instruction sets for all the weird and wonderful things Sun's SPARC Line uses.) Open Solaris is designed to remedy that. It's not there yet, but its coming along. Personally, I rather run Solaris 10 x86 for my non-sun equipment, but thats just me.

 I will also admit that SUSE is an Operating System I'm not overly familiar with, nor am I familiar with their support contracts/ service contracts, its just not somthing I see everyday. I can't really say much more than that Sun was burned quite a lot in the past, and they had to tighten up. Solaris has unlimited licenses, however support is mated to the system/location and charged by Processor count.

 Point four does include disaster recovery and failover, but I was thinking less on the datacenter catching fire, being hit by lightning, etc and more the loss of the person running the application / the server etc. Unless someone or a business is really on the ball and documents, tests and develops processes, the loss of an administrator or developper can have serious consequences down the road, especially in more highly customized applications. These consequences are more likely to double and be four times more likely if the system is mission critical. I agree with FM's comment of data integrity, failover, and documentation being critical, however change control, testing, proven performance, support are things I find lacking in the Open Source Software side of thing.

 Total Cost of Ownership is a nice big business term to an extent a buzzword that makes people feel nice and provides a marketing edge to business people. I'm suprises no-one's brought up AIX or HP-UX yet...How the total cost of ownership for those systems works out.  The cost of the software itself is a small part, and we all know you do get what you pay for. As for the cost factor, there's so much more we can get into with open source versus closed source. I mean thats where we get into hardware, system design, IT philosophy, Service Level Agreements and all that good boring stuff.

We all can agree that 'better' is a relative term? We have to seperate on some levels the ideological goals of the free software movement and the practical goals of the free software movement. 

Standards in IT / Software / Hardware is a whole other beast all together. Part of me says, hey lets go back to the 1970s and have no standards, just ideas and what works (IT Sounded a lot more fun until it became a critical aspect of business....) and dammed be the consequences. However, its not one size fits all. Every system is different, every business is different. The 80/20 solution I think has failed. I don't think that just the Free Software movement is about standards though, I think all Vendors are about standards in one way or another.

Okay. I think I swung the topic in another direction entirely, and I apologize.

radiorahim radiorahim's picture

IanM wrote:

Also, on the Sun Solaris released under CDDL- Solaris for SPARC I don't believe can be released for open source under the GNU License due to the fact that it is mated to the hardware (which is composed of the Hardware Kernel containing your instruction sets for all the weird and wonderful things Sun's SPARC Line uses.) Open Solaris is designed to remedy that. It's not there yet, but its coming along. Personally, I rather run Solaris 10 x86 for my non-sun equipment, but thats just me.

The GNU General Public license is not an "open source"'s a "free (as in freedom) software" license.   It's author (Richard Stallman) thoroughly rejects the "open source" philosophy.


IanM wrote:

 We have to seperate on some levels the ideological goals of the free software movement and the practical goals of the free software movement. 


Why?  The free software movement's goals have always been first and foremost political.   It's the "open source" movement that's tried to shove the political goals aside.


IanM wrote:

 I don't think that just the Free Software movement is about standards though, I think all Vendors are about standards in one way or another.


The free software movement is about open fully documented vendor neutral standards such as the "open document format" (ODF) for office documents instead of Microsoft's version of standards MSOOXML...a very broken version of which is implemented in MS Office 2007.

The ISO approved ODF as the standard for office documents and its adoption was uncontroversial.   Of course Microsoft was throroughly pissed at this...because they didn't control it.    So they came up with their broken "OOXML" format and basically engaged in corrupt practices to get the ISO to approve it as a "second" standard.

You'll find everything you need to know here:

The EU Commission needed a crowbar to get Microsoft to open up its networking protocols for other operating systems.


Another "vendor lock-in" standard that Microsoft uses is the "MTP" (Media Transfer Protocol) that's used on certain portable music players...forcing you to be running Windows XP or Vista with Windows Media Player 10 so that your computer can "talk" to your portable music player.

I first came across the problem helping a friend with a "Creative Zune" player.   The only way a computer can talk to it is through MTP.  Some players that use MTP allow you to turn it off so that your computer uses "UMS" (sees it as a "USB mass storage" device) that it will "talk" to any operating system.

You can get MacOSX or GNU/Linux to "talk" to MTP devices, but it's a royal pain in the ass.

Of course I've picked on Microsoft alot...but Apple has done nasty things with the iPod...attempting to lockout users of software other than iTunes.

This particularly affects GNU/Linux users...and why I'll never ever buy an iPod.

BTW, my favourite portable music player is my Cowon iAudio 7.   Cheaper than an iPod, doesn't use MTP, and "out of the box" plays patent-free media formats like ogg vorbis and ... really cool..."FLAC"... no other players on the market play FLAC files.

The free software movement is also about the use of these kinds of free media formats.  The "mp3" file format is proprietary.

It would be nice if rabble podcasts were also available in "ogg vorbis".

Play Ogg



radiorahim wrote:
There are no "original" software ideas.    All software is built upon the ideas of others that came before. 

I worked in a small r&d lab outside Ottawa for a few years. I did see software for which no patent existed at the time, like an implementation for frame relay over cable tv network. That was a Canadian first in about 1998 or so.

radiorahim radiorahim's picture

Good!   Software patents shouldn't exist.

radiorahim radiorahim's picture

Stallman's Toronto talk was primarily around issues of's historical evolution, the present inadequate situation and he presented some new possible models as we move from the "industrial" model of copyright into the digital age.

In all situations Stallman believes that people should be free to engage in the non-commercial copying and sharing of works.

For reference works he believes that people should be completely free to distribute and change works for educational purposes.

For "cultural works" he proposes a ten year limit on the freedom to copy and change existing works.

Stallman did of course touch on "free software" issues and the "four freedoms" that all computer users need to have.

He railed against "digital restrictions management" (DRM)...the Amazon "Kindle" which he refers to as the "swindle"...which could make it illegal for you to share and give away books.

He was his normal cantakerous, hardassed otherwords...terrific!!!!