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GNU is Not Unix Education

Richard Stallman on OLPC 218

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the no-not-literally-it-would-break dept.
memshankar writes "In an interview while he was in Hyderabad, India RMS praises for the One Laptop Per Child Project. He is even contemplating making a switch to XO, the flagship machine of the project, from his "old thinkpad". Stallman went on to say that the OLPC laptop has given people a way to use the free BIOS. He is, however dissatisfied with the wireless networking system used in the XO."
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Richard Stallman on OLPC

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  • Wow (Score:5, Funny)

    by CmdrGravy (645153) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @10:37AM (#22320498) Homepage
    Amazing, if this Stallman person is thinking of getting one then maybe I should too. I wonder what brand of washing powder he uses because I'm not totally satisfied with the softness ( or lack of ) I get with the persil tablets I am currently using.
  • by LiquidCoooled (634315) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @10:38AM (#22320502) Homepage Journal
    He is, however dissatisfied with the wireless networking system used in the XO. Since it uses a proprietary technology,| he plans to remove it and use a separate device when he needs to make wireless communication with others.

    You imagine the mumbling and grumbling grumbling coming from RMS as he wields his soldering iron over a naked XO.

  • by chrishillman (852550) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @10:38AM (#22320516) Homepage Journal
    Is RMS ever happy? I am going to start a project "One Puppy per child" and the first one goes to Stallman.
  • by emj (15659)
    is closed source, he isn't complaining about the technology... Good bad I'm not sure but maybe he could make a greater stance against how that is handled by Intel and all the other WLAN card designers.
    • by camcorder (759720)
      I don't even think RMS knew what wireless technology those PCs have. Since RMS never interested in content most of time. I remember once I passed a signed book to him of a writer friend of mine titled as "Linux-something", his first response was "I didn't like this book, where's GNU in it". And I'm not kidding.
      • by hpavc (129350)
        Way to miss his intent, perhaps too you are not interested in content. He doesn't claim anything good or bad about the technology in and of itself except that its closed. Though he seems to demonstrate an acute grasp of it in the interview for what its worth when discussing the hardware and the removal.
  • Wha? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @10:39AM (#22320530)
    He didn't call it GNU/OLPC?

    You sure they actually interviewed RMS?
    • Re:Wha? (Score:4, Informative)

      by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @10:44AM (#22320608) Homepage Journal
      Not sure there is much of anything GNU on it. Even the shell utils are busybox, not GNU.
      • by byolinux (535260) *
        I suspect he'll run on it. [gnewsense.org]
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        Hmmm...it includes GTK+ and bits of Gnome. GTK+ is a part of Gnome, which in turn, is a part of GNU. And, of course, it uses glibc, which is also a part of GNU.

        • by QuantumG (50515)
          It does *not* include GTK+.. but I think the python canvas widget it uses to draw on is actually part of GNOME, yes.
      • by ray-auch (454705)
        But it runs on Linux - Uh, sorry - GNU/Linux.

        Essentially, all linux systems are GNU/Linux to RMS (check out the source to configure).
        • Re:Wha? (Score:5, Informative)

          by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @12:00PM (#22321754) Homepage Journal

          But it runs on Linux - Uh, sorry - GNU/Linux.

          Essentially, all linux systems are GNU/Linux to RMS (check out the source to configure).

          RMS has never claimed the Linux kernel as part of GNU. He uses GNU/Linux to refer to distributions which use all the GNU userland stuff on top of the Linux kernel. It's a pretty reasonable position, actually, except that it ignores some other major pieces that should be in the list, and that a proper list (e.g. GNOME/Xorg/GNU/Linux) would be so unwieldy that it's easier just to say "Linux".

          Actually, Linux as RMS uses it really is pretty much just GNU/Linux. I understand he doesn't use X or anything that requires a GUI, just EMACS, GNU Screen and BASH.

      • by kellyb9 (954229)

        Not sure there is much of anything GNU on it. Even the shell utils are busybox, not GNU
        Probably couldn't afford the licensing.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by punissuer (1036512)
      Your comment is funny because Stallman has pleaded so many times for credit where it's due, but I do hope you noticed that the name he came up with for GNU wasn't StallmanOS or RMoS.
  • Makes sense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dotancohen (1015143) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @10:40AM (#22320556) Homepage
    I always thought that the XO made sense for RMS. Find another machine that is open source from the hardware to the bios to the OS to the applications. The XO is the only true FOSS device that I know about.
    • Re:Makes sense (Score:4, Informative)

      by Macthorpe (960048) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @10:45AM (#22320614) Journal
      Except it's not. From TFA:

      "He is, however dissatisfied with the wireless networking system used in the XO. Since it uses a proprietary technology, he plans to remove it and use a separate device when he needs to make wireless communication with others."
    • by wurp (51446) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @01:41PM (#22322948) Homepage
      FIC produces a phone that qualifies. The firmware for the GSM is closed, but I believe that's a legal requirement in most areas.

      The Neo 1973 & Neo FreeRunner [openmoko.com] are linux ARM computers with full GPS, bluetooth, GSM/GPRS, USB (client & unpowered host) and 480 x 640 touchscreens. The FreeRunner also has two accelerometers and wi-fi. You can buy the Neo 1973 [openmoko.com] now, and the FreeRunner is expected in March or April.

      You can (of course) play video, music, and run PDA apps on the devices. You can also view PDFs and the web, use bluetooth keyboards (or bluetooth anything else, for that matter), or do anything that you or someone else cares to port from the desktop, assuming the hardware resources are sufficient.

      I've been playing with my Neo 1973 (currently recommended only for people willing to debug, and tolerate alpha level software) for a few weeks, and I'm having a great time with it.

      Not only the software is open - you can get CAD files for the case, and schematics as well. There are also i2c, etc. bus standards used so adding new hardware is easy as well, if you're so inclined. Obviously the real market there is for a cottage industry distributing neos with extra hardware built-in, but the hobbyist can experiment at home, too.
    • by gad_zuki! (70830)
      What, so according gplv3 'tivoization' in prohibited. The security model in the XO is 'tivoization.' Except now an arbitrary authority has arbitrary rules on releasing 'developer keys' that allow people to hack the bios. So if tivo said 'hey our new tivo is gplv3 compliant because if you ask nicely we -might- give you a key' then we're cool with that?

      A 'way' to get the BIOS is far from an open BIOS. Hell, what if they lose all their documentation to generate this or in 20 years when OLPC is a failed proje
  • why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by theheadlessrabbit (1022587) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @10:45AM (#22320620) Homepage Journal
    I've always wondered about articles like this one.

    Linus says something about an area he knows nothing about.

    Stallman says something a particular product.

    dont get me wrong, they are both interesting people, I have some Stallman lectures sitting on my hard drive, and I've actually watched them several times.

    When these guys are talking about a topic where they are an authority on the matter, I find their comments to be '+5 insightful', but stuff like this is '+2 interesting' at best.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by QuantumG (50515)
      Seen any Eben Moglen lectures? For example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NorfgQlEJv8 [youtube.com]

      If you can handle his monotones, he really has some cool stuff to say.
    • Re:why? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 1u3hr (530656) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @11:48AM (#22321592)
      Stallman says something a particular product.

      You can't blame Stallman, he was asked a question and he answered it. And he said he was going to BUY an OLPC and use it in preference to his ThinkPad, a pretty ringing endorsement. But 90% of the posts seem to be about either his comments on the "unfree" wifi driver, or his beard. Again, not his fault for the weird way he is reported.

    • When these guys are talking about a topic where they are an authority on the matter


      It seems to me a focus of Stallman's approval of the OLPC is freedom, particularly software but also hardware, throughout the system.

      Now, it seems to me that that is pretty much Stallman's area of specialty.
  • by Morgaine (4316) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @10:47AM (#22320656)
    Although some people can't see beyond the ends of their politically correct noses in the west and so talk down RMS for his shaggy look, that's not an issue in the guru culture of India. In fact, the picture of RMS in TFA fits in perfectly. You wouldn't trust a "wise old man" dressed in a slimy western business suit and tie.

    Kudos to RMS for all his work over the years, and putting up with small-minded criticism.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by jellomizer (103300) *
      Nah it is because he has been so closed minded for many years. He was open minded then he came up with an Idea that a lot of people liked now he is closed minded in that idea and any concepts beyond his train of tought is evil. The Indian Guru look works because of the sience of humility to the world and or a connection with nature and not towards material possetions. Being the RMS is not humble, and being that he is pushing technology means a connection to material possetions (as a point in the article
      • by swillden (191260)

        So all the leaves him as a smelly unkempt old man. Who is hanging on to decade old ideas.

        25 years ago he was a smelly unkempt young man, who was hanging onto decades-old ideas, and look where that got us.

        BTW, your opinions will carry a lot more weight with most people if they're expressed in grammatically-correct sentences. You may consider that wrong, but it's reality.

        • BTW, your opinions will carry a lot more weight with most people if they're expressed in grammatically-correct sentences. You may consider that wrong, but it's reality

          Agree but I am stuck with IE 6 at my location. And I don't have time for slashdot to be perfect
          • by swillden (191260)

            BTW, your opinions will carry a lot more weight with most people if they're expressed in grammatically-correct sentences. You may consider that wrong, but it's reality

            Agree but I am stuck with IE 6 at my location. And I don't have time for slashdot to be perfect

            I fail to see the relevance of IE 6, and I don't think you have to worry: Slashdot will never be perfect.

            • Lack of spelling and grammar checking. Normally if I am at home or different locations I am using OS X which the Text Boxes have spelling and grammar checking almost independant of the Browsers... Or at other locations where I have firefox I at least have spell checking on it. On IE 6 in particular there is no spell checking or grammer checking... and as I type fast to get my point there is nothing telling me that my spelling sucks until I hit submit.
            • The IE 6 remark was probably a reference to Firefox having a spell checker.
              • by swillden (191260)

                The IE 6 remark was probably a reference to Firefox having a spell checker.

                But my comment was about grammar, not spelling!

                (I'd guessed the same thing, actually, which was why I made the snarky comment.)

      • The spelling erors and general incoherance were a nice touch .. ;)
  • Blimey... (Score:5, Funny)

    by peterprior (319967) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @10:51AM (#22320726)
    Next thing you know he'll start using a web browser to view websites [lwn.net]. :O
    • by wikinerd (809585)
      It may sound funny, but in fact it is the perfect way to browse the WWW without subjecting yourself to stupid privacy-offending beacons used by ad networks etc.
  • the keyboard is purposefully small (kid sized) so it wouldn't get stolen.

    RMS, who has had crippling repetitive stress injuries in the past, should know better than to make a statement like this, let alone even use the XO for anything but experimentation.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by KarmaRundi (880281)
      It has 3 USB ports, so you can plug in an ergonomic keyboard and mouse (which you might want to do with any laptop if you have RSI).
  • by Hobart (32767) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @11:12AM (#22320978) Homepage Journal
    http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Marvell_microkernel [laptop.org]

    The microkernel on the Marvell 88W8388 wireless chip is one of 2 to 4 pieces of non-Free user-modifiable software on the XO laptop. (the others being the EC firmware, and possibly the touchpad and keyboard firmware) This is where we explain what needs to be done to create a Free replacement, who is doing it, and what progress we have made.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    He won't even put down the laptop he owns now, even for a second. Not even when he is dancing [youtube.com]. :)
  • I knew it! (Score:4, Funny)

    by travdaddy (527149) <{gro.liamxunil} {ta} {ovart}> on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @11:14AM (#22320998)
    Richard Stallman on OLPC

    I knew it! I knew that guy had to be on something! But, I thought it would be PCP.
  • by nweaver (113078) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @11:18AM (#22321064) Homepage
    The XO's networking capabilities is fantastic. It gets far better range (thanks to its dual rabbit ears), has ultra low power mesh networking, and a bunch of other capabilities.

    But because it uses binary blobs for the driver and firmware, RMS fees it is hopelessly compromised?!

    Does RMS not drive a car built in the past 20 years because you aren't supposed to change the computer running the engine? What about fly in a commercial airliner?

    Also, the XO can never use GPLv3 code. For the US market, they will give the unlock key, but for the third world, this key is the responsibility of the educational ministry, which often needs to keep the software base consistent (among other things, this helps manage theft).
    • by Vexorian (959249) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @11:25AM (#22321184)
      Yes, he says proprietary is never good and, you know what? He is right.
      • Yes, he says proprietary is never good and, you know what? He is right.

        Good for whom? The post you replied to (but failed to quote) gives the examples of cars and airplanes. While I'm willing to believe that Stallman avoids riding in cars at all costs (perhaps opting for bicycles instead), there's no way he could go around the world giving speeches without having been in an airplane. And you know what? The vast majority of the software that an airplane (or an airliner, for that matter) uses is proprietary.

        If Stallman is willing to fly around in an airplane using proprietary software, despite his stance that proprietary software is "evil", then it must be because that proprietary software isn't so evil that it is worth foregoing the convenience of air travel that they provide.

        Sometimes having a bunch of hobbyist collaborate on some software is enough (e.g. in the case of Linux). Other times, you need a huge amount of capital, investors, and management to coordinate everything (e.g. almost every industry which open source has not yet penetrated to a significant degree, such as aviation, automobiles, computer hardware, etc.) In these industries, it will always be the underdogs that want to push open source: "Our airplane software isn't quite as good as the other people's, so we have nothing to lose by releasing our software, and if we can somehow trick the others into opening their software, then everyone will be using whatever the best software is, thus leveling the playing field. We don't want to compete on software, only on other things". The top dogs will, of course, resist this: "Our airplane software is better than all of our competitors, and we'd like to keep it that way."

        Whenever you use terms like "never", "always", "good", or "evil", check yourself: You may have an overly simplified view of reality.

    • by simong (32944)
      RMS doesn't drive. There are better reasons for this than the car's computer.
      • by Tim Browse (9263)
        Let me assure you, he's not above scrounging lifts in such cars. And then spending the journey lambasting the driver for the way they earns a living to support their family (writing proprietary software).
    • by novakyu (636495) <novakyu@member.fsf.org> on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @11:55AM (#22321684) Homepage
      I think you misunderstand him. I quote from Why "Open Source" misses the point of Free Software [gnu.org]:

      "For the free software movement, free software is an ethical imperative, because only free software respects the users' freedom. By contrast, the philosophy of open source considers issues in terms of how to make software "better"--in a practical sense only. It says that non-free software is a suboptimal solution. For the free software movement, however, non-free software is a social problem, and moving to free software is the solution."

      I suppose it's O.K. if you don't think freedom is the most important thing—everyone has an opinion and you have every right to disagree. But you should understand that free software has never been about making a good reliable program (although that is often a by-product)—it is about the freedom itself.

      As for not using GPLv3, I don't think rms himself would hold that against anybody. As a matter of course, GNU projects will be under GPLv3, but rms has repeatedly said, for example, in the case of Linux, the kernel, it is entirely up to the kernel developers (the strongest statement you have from him is that he hopes that they will decide to upgrade to GPLv3), and as you can see in the list of free licenses [gnu.org] (well, some not), he never held being not copyleft against any license—it's just that when one values freedom, GPL (and admittedly, it's latest version, in FSF's opinion) does the best job of protecting that freedom for everyone (or, the most number of people).
    • by ray-auch (454705)
      I don't think RMS drives.

      As to planes, he possibly hasn't yet realised that "fly by wire" means software, not pulling on real wires. If he ever finds out that FBW (and similar) software developement can require independent implementations, developed by separaate teams who are not allowed to look at each other's code, then I guess he won't fly.
    • But because it uses binary blobs for the driver and firmware, RMS fees it is hopelessly compromised?!

      If this surprises you at all, it must be the first time you've heard of the man. Yeah, RMS is like that. Once he got pissed off at a printer driver and wrote an OS.

      Also, the XO can never use GPLv3 code. For the US market, they will give the unlock key, but for the third world, this key is the responsibility of the educational ministry, which often needs to keep the software base consistent (among other things, this helps manage theft).

      Did this make sense to you when you wrote it?

      • by nweaver (113078)
        "Installation Information for a User Product means any methods, procedures, authorization keys, or other information required to install and execute modified versions of a covered work in that User Product from a modified version of its Corresponding Source. The information must suffice to ensure that the continued functioning of the modified object code is in no case prevented or interfered with solely because modification has been made.

        If you convey an object code work under this section in, or with, or s
        • QED: You can't distribute an XO containing GPLv3 software without giving the authorization key.

          Two points:

          1) It's not clear that a hypothetical department of education would actually be distributing these. For example, I do not own my company laptop - my boss does.

          2) Locking down an XO so that it can't be modified defeats the entire freakin' point of the project. It's not like these are super high-end machines that contain every piece of software the user could ever want. The whole goal is to put hackable machines into the hands of kids who can learn from them.

    • by darkwhite (139802)
      If I have to use binary drivers to run my hardware, that's bad. There are no two ways about it. This is a very unambiguous truth.

      And yes, I'd rather have a car whose ECU I can reprogram using an open interface, and fly in a plane where I can read, and the operators can modify the source for the avionics software.

      Stallman may be ridiculous in many ways, but to deny that open architectures are comparatively good is ludicrous.
  • by jpellino (202698) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @11:28AM (#22321260)
    ... about an obscure restaurant in Western Mass.

  • I didn't RTFA, but is he really thinking of switching to one full-time? I think it's a great device, but I can't imagine typing on one for any amount of time. And I'm sure he types a lot. I hear he kinda likes Emacs. [wikipedia.org]
    • by Bogtha (906264)

      I'm sure he types a lot.

      I'm sure he doesn't. He suffers from chronic RSI and has hired people to type for him in the past (not sure what his current situation is though).

  • "I don't actually know - it's a rather old ThinkPad, and I've basically decided to switch to a One-Laptop-Per-Child, and the reason is that has a Free BIOS, and I want to get rid of the non-Free BIOS, and IBM wouldn't tell us how to do that in this machine. So, finally I have a way to get rid of it, and that is the One-Laptop-Per-Child.

    "However, I'm sad to say, the usual configuration of the One-Laptop-Per-Child does use a non-Free program, it's the program that does the mesh network. So I'm just going

  • by AceJohnny (253840) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .eyatnegralj.> on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @11:45AM (#22321534) Journal
    I admire RMS' unmoving stance on Free. Will I emulate it? Certainly not. I believe RMS places himself, consciously or not, as a role model. He sits at an extreme of the Free/Proprietary spectrum, and will continuously push and pull in that direction.

    For the rest of us who live in the real world and accept compromises to make our lives more comfortable, he's ridiculous. But that's not the point. The point is that he aims for an ideal that won't be attained by everyone, but that can be strived to.

    So the fact that his complaints about the non-free wireless is ridiculous to the rest of us, but it does motivate some to provide a free alternative, and that is his objective.
  • The keyboard alone is unusable for touch-typists. Although I haven't tried, I presume a USB keyboard would work. But who wants to carry that around. I've been tinkering with an XO for a few weeks now, and the membrane, too-small keyboard is the killer.

    -Mike
  • by scharkalvin (72228) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @12:45PM (#22322262) Homepage
    I've sent emails to RMS at GNU in the past and he actually will reply.
    He can be dogmatic about his views, but he won't flame you for having
    a different opinion. He WILL give you a good argument why HE is right
    and YOU are wrong, but in a VERY polite way. (He's like a true politician,
    he can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you will look forward to
    the trip!).
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by OldeTimeGeek (725417)
      (He's like a true politician, he can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you will look forward to the trip!).

      No, that'd be a diplomat. [answers.com]

  • RMS uses a Thinkpad? That's not free, is it?
    Shouldn't the XO be free to everyone? I mean, if it has free software, the hardware ought to be free as well.

    I am going to go start the Free Hardware Foundation and agitate for free hardware.
  • by Starky (236203) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @11:39PM (#22329568)
    Would someone be so kind as to set up a mirror for those of us in China? Blogspot is blocked by the Great Firewall.

    Thanks in advance.

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