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Comment Ensuring freedom requires enforcement (Score 3, Informative) 154

Just as we come closer to ensuring no murders when we enforce laws against murder, we come closer to ensuring the software freedom described in the GPL when we enforce the GPL.

It's telling that Linus Torvalds said "I really think the license has been one of the defining factors in the success of Linux because it enforced that you have to give back, which meant that the fragmentation has never been something that has been viable from a technical standpoint." and hates enforcement ("Lawyers: poisonous to openness..."). The fork of the Linux kernel Torvalds distributes contains the "fragmentation" he claims isn't viable—Torvalds' variant of Linux contains proprietary binaries in it. These blobs of code are removed in the fully-free GNU Linux-libre kernel.

Linus Torvalds' position is more easily understood when you consider that Torvalds is a fan of the right-wing, proprietor-friendly open source movement which is a reaction to the older free software movement. The difference between the two movements has been described in writing (older essay, newer essay) and in every RMS speech for years.

You can see that difference playing out in Linus Torvalds' dig against GPL enforcement. Brad Kuhn, President and Distinguished Technologist of the Software Freedom Conservancy talked about the value of GPL enforcement in his most recent talk on the issue at in 2016 in his talk "Copyleft For the Next Decade: A Comprehensive Plan", "Copyleft is not magic pixie dust; you don't sprinkle it on some code and then suddenly your code is liberated forever. I wish that were true but that's not how the world works." (9m2s). The way Torvalds talks about the GPLv2 you'd think the GPLv2 were magic pixie dust because that's what he wants Linux kernel copyright holders to believe—an unenforced GPL is fine—because Torvalds, like any good sycophant for proprietary software, knows what Kuhn reminds us of in Kuhn's talk, (around 13m1s), "If a copyleft license is not enforced it's indistinguishable from a non-copylefted license in practice.". But where Torvalds takes that as an instruction to not act in defense of the GPL, Kuhn says that as a warning against software proprietarism. Conservancy is the group doing that enforcement work to help assure all computer users actually get the freedoms of free software the GPL describes. That work includes GPL enforcement, specifically a coordinated compliance effort across multiple Conservancy projects.

Comment Proprietary software is unsafe building material (Score 1) 227

As well you should have, and so should have every car owner have the means to get complete corresponding source code with build instructions. Software freedom gives car owners the means to help themselves and prevent more outbreaks of this ridiculousness as Eben Moglen pointed out when we saw the first round of this.

Comment Trump asks for what US has long done (Score 1) 1017

As Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept reminds us, "Governments do spy on each other and do try to influence events in other countries, certainly the U.S. government has a very long and successful history of doing exactly that.". So hearing Americans, particularly Democrats, complain about Trump's request here reminds us the US has unclean hands and about far more important things than distracting us away from the ugliness the Democrats apparently sic on each other to win political races. Some of that increased ugliness includes voter shenanigans (possibly voter suppression) to make it harder for would-be Bernie Sanders voters to vote in the Democratic primary, collusion with news outlets to suppress unfavorable stories, and possible illegality from the DLC. These strike me as far more interesting considering the veracity of the DLC emails remains unchallenged.

The last thing the Democrats really want is people thinking about Hillary Clinton's voting record, or campaign funding sources. That analysis won't go down well with anti-war, pro-universal health care, pro-organized labor, anti-fracking, anti-TPP voters the Democrats seem to be losing. Such discussion might lead these voters to notice that the Democrats are apparently as interested as the Republicans in using a distractionary fear-based campaign against the only competition they're willing to admit to (no talk of Greens or Libertarians, for instance, people might defect or demand inclusive debates).

Comment Democratic Party lying? (Score 1) 704

A video edit comparing what Hillary Clinton claimed to what James Comey claimed after the FBI investigation highlights the distance between the two quite well and puts a fine point on the part where Comey says that if this had been anyone else who did what she did they might not get the same cushy response from the FBI she got.

And keep in mind that the US has very unclean hands here, according to Edward Snowden, former NSA contractor who would know what tools the NSA has available to look into this.

But of course the veracity of the documents leads us to the real story. Nobody claims the DNC emails were faked, just like nobody said the Snowden revelations were untrue. This helps us focus on what those documents show: Bernie Sanders was not lying to us when he said, "I told you a long time ago that theâ"that the DNC was not running a fair operation, that they were supporting Secretary Clinton.", and that he requests far too weak of a solution to remedy the problem (getting rid of Debbie Wasserman Schultz as chair of the DNC). And the emails show us that the DNC were telling amenable media outlets (such as NBC, if I recall correctly) which stories to not publish because they made someone they cared about look bad. Julian Assange's interview on Democracy Now is worth reading, it's quite revealing about how nasty the Clinton campaign is, sourcing the unnamed "experts" who told Robby Mook, Clinton campaign manager, that "Russian state actors broke into the DNC, stole these emails" and "are releasing these emails for the purpose of actually helping Donald Trump".

Comment /. should encourage sharing (Score 4, Insightful) 66

So why not encourage GPL violators ("pirates" too)? Instead we seem to cheer whenever we find a GPL violator.

First, we should understand what the propagandistic term "piracy" really means and understand that meaning as separate from sharing—a friendly, neighborly thing to do. As the GNU Project points out in it's list of terms to avoid on "theft": "In general, laws don't define right and wrong. Laws, at their best, attempt to implement justice. If the laws (the implementation) don't fit our ideas of right and wrong (the spec), the laws are what should change. A US judge, presiding over a trial for copyright infringement, recognized that "piracy" and "theft" are smear-words.". This difference gets to the heart of the problem in your point—you're conflating the legal with the ethical and then trying to get others to view all sharing as copyright infringement and all copyright infringement as equivalent because the law frames things in that way.

We should recognize that the terms of the licenses involved between, say, the GNU General Public License (GPL) and a typical Hollywood movie, are radically different when it comes to doing what friends do: share. One can and should share copies of GPL'd programs. It's easy to do, the GPL is easy to comply with simply by also sharing a copy of the complete corresponding source code of the program at the same time as one shares the binary. By contrast, other famously shared copyrighted items (such as most Hollywood movies) aren't legal to share even if done non-commercially and verbatim. So doing the thing that comes naturally with friends, non-commercial and verbatim sharing, is likely not allowed by that movie's license.

Since you mention the GPL, a free software license written by Richard Stallman, this is somewhat akin to what Stallman describes in his talks about the freedoms of free software specifically freedom #2: the freedom to help your neighbour. That's the freedom to make copies and distribute them to others, when you wish. This comes from a 2006-03-09 talk and you can see how the consideration here is akin to the dilemma one faces should a friend ask for a copy of a Hollywood movie:

Freedom two is essential on fundamental ethical grounds, so that you can live an upright, ethical life as a member of your community. If you use a program that does not give you freedom number two, you're in danger of falling at any moment into a moral dilemma. When your friend says "that's a nice program, could I have a copy?" At that moment, you will have to choose between two evils. One evil is: give your friend a copy and violate the licence of the program. The other evil is: deny your friend a copy and comply with the licence of the program.

Once you are in that situation, you should choose the lesser evil. The lesser evil is to give your friend a copy and violate the licence of the program.


Now, why is that the lesser evil? The reason is that we can assume that your friend has treated you well and has been a good person and deserves your cooperation. The reason we can assume this is that in the other case, if a nasty person you don't really like asked you for help, of course you can say "Why should I help you?" So that's an easy case. The hard case is the case where that person has been a good person to you and other people and you would want to help him normally.

Whereas, the developer of the program has deliberately attacked the social solidarity of your community. Deliberately tried to separate you from everyone else in the World. So if you can't help doing wrong in some direction or other, better to aim the wrong at somebody who deserves it, who has done something wrong, rather than at somebody who hasn't done anything wrong.

However, to be the lesser evil does not mean it is good. It's never good - not entirely - to make some kind of agreement and then break it. It may be the right thing to do, but it's not entirely good.

The only thing in the software field that is worse than an unauthorised copy of a proprietary program, is an authorised copy of the proprietary program because this does the same harm to its whole community of users, and in addition, usually the developer, the perpetrator of this evil, profits from it.

Comment High-tech users have a lot to learn here (Score 1) 639

There's a lot programmers, sysadmins, and other high-tech people could learn from those who are used to organizing politically for shared ends. Political advocacy is not one of the poorer high-tech person's strengths. There's a streak of undeserved independence in high-tech that doesn't reflect how much people have to work together explicitly for political ends, not dismissing politics as undesirable, unnecessary, or unimportant as you commonly see the high-tech set train each other to espouse.

Comment Why do you believe people don't care? (Score 4, Informative) 104

What's your backing for that assertion?

I ask this because I notice you've cited nothing backing up your claim, and it's quite a claim. And because people on /. make comparably grand assertions of people not caring about the Snowden revelations despite evidence to the contrary, and it's a good idea to back up one's statements from something substantial.

Glenn Greenwald, Edward Snowden, and Noam Chomsky addressed this at a recent talk on privacy and spent some time debunking the notion that the public doesn't care about privacy or that Snowden's revelations weren't a big deal.

The host says around 32m44s that after Snowden's revelations were published by international news "Pew Internet Life Research shows that people were modifying their behavior -- they were self-censoring, they were curtailing their own speech.". Around 38m the host questions the point directly asking "Do people in general care?" to which we get variations on the theme of "Yes" ranging from Snowden's point that whether people care "isn't really that material even if it is the case [because] rights don't exist for the majority; rights exist to protect the minority against the majority.". He then explains that he thinks increasingly people do care because they only recently learned of the threat to their privacy and then he explains that threat in plain language.

Greenwald, by this time in the discussion, had already debunked the notion that people who say they have no secrets and therefore don't care: He offered them his email address and told them to send him the credentials of every personal (as opposed to work) account they have including the sensitive ones (I interpreted this to mean an account on, say, a cheat-on-one's-spouse site). To date, he said, nobody's taken him up on his offer. Here he points out that contrary to the naysayers who dismissed the Snowden revelations as a flash-in-the-pan that would go away in a few days, these documents have been headline stories "not just in the United States but in dozens of countries in multiple continents around the world precisely because people were so angry and offended at the intrusion into their privacy including people who might have said in the past 'I don't really care'." (43m43s). He cites a "massive increase in the number of people around the world who are now using encryption to protect the privacy of their communications, to the number of people who put pressure on the US Government in both parties to enact legislation limiting these programs [the NSA spying programs] but maybe the best evidence of all of how much people care about privacy is the behavioral change in Silicon Valley companies. The biggest ones -- Yahoo, Facebook, Apple, and Google, and Microsoft -- when I first read the archive that Ed gave me, one of the things that struck me the most is what full-scale collaborators these companies were in the surveillance state that the NSA had created. They were not only complying [and a Snowden leaked document from the NSA showing "Dates When PRISM Collection Began For Each Provider"] [...] to the extent the law required but even went beyond that." including building backdoors into their non-free, user-subjugating, proprietary software. Greenwald concludes, "And the reason they were such full-scale collaborators is because nobody knew they were doing it completely in the dark, nobody knew they were doing it, and there was no cost." (45m18s). Once this became known these companies changed their behavior due to fear of being seen as the collaborators they have been for so long. They know the pressures of their customer base and that they are seen standing up to the FBI, being "seen as aides and abettors of ISIS", etc. People won't use these companies' products and services if they know their privacy won't be upheld.

Noam Chomsky reflected on this from a historical perspective saying that the answer was given centuries ago by Blaise Pascal, "The root of man's misfortunes is the lack of a room in which one can sit quiet and undisturbed." recognizing that this metaphor is substantively correct.

Comment Don't do business with orgs that treat us badly. (Score 1) 120

Given how unprincipled /. moderators are (see any thread about whether a /. moderator will pay to see the next Star Wars movie and keep in mind Disney's behavior on DRM and copyright term extension, for instance), I'd say you're sadly in the minority. Cases like this are ample reason to refuse to do business with organizations that treat us badly, but /. moderators became far more concerned with convenience at any price.

Comment SELinux gains value through software freedom (Score 3, Insightful) 412

To my mind SELinux's value comes from it being free software. The freedoms of free software allow us to vet, run, share, and modify SELinux and make sure it does what we need it to do. Coming from NSA is nice because I'm sure the NSA hires skilled programmers who worked on SELinux, but I'm not going to trust any non-free software coming from the NSA because non-free software (regardless of purpose or stated intent) is untrustworthy.

The drug war (the US's longest war?), which seems intimately tied to the Drug Enforcement Agency, certainly is a horror.

Comment Re:If not now... (Score 1) 1023

Further putting the lie to Ed Rensi's words, McDonald's was pursuing more automation well before the $15/hour minimum wage was proposed. There is at least one location where one can order with a computer terminal instead of talking to a teller.

I'm guessing there are fast food restaurants (however broadly defined) which will take one's order, collect payment, cook/heat the food, box the order, and give it to the customer with an almost all-robotic workforce (save ingredient delivery, robot maintenance, and site cleaning). If you're okay with minimal customization, food you could have cooked/heated yourself at home at a lower price, and having to wait somewhere other than your home for the food to be dispensed to you, this might be something to try. To me it sounds remarkably unappetizing.

Comment Farewell K5, I hardly knew ye (Score 2) 264

I wasn't a K5 account holder or poster but I read it infrequently and thought that it was likely to give visitors a more mature discussion than what one would find elsewhere (Twitter, Slashdot, Digg, and so many other current and former discussion websites). Sort of like when Slashdot was new and not yet populated by shills and people who reflexively accept whatever the corporate-run tech press says is worthwhile. I didn't get the impression that K5 gave as much heed to the "firehose" headline publishing approach Slashdot brags about (which I think is a big part of the reason people are discouraged from thinking critically and seriously about corporate repeater sites like Slashdot's narrow scope of allowable debate): if there's not enough time to digest something before being cut off from an audience (whether through the site shutting off comments or visitors being steered toward newer stories), there's only enough time to echo familiar tropes. This is much like what Noam Chomsky identified in "Manufacturing Consent" regarding the tyranny of concision.

Comment Privacy and software freedom trump convenience (Score 1) 144

Or you could host a free software editing system somewhere trustworthy (that's not Google, Microsoft, Yahoo,, and others) and have the same minor conveniences without feeding a system built to destroy your family privacy.

There's nothing about your use case that justifies the need for this kind of hosting anyhow, as everything you describe doing could be done with hosting an ODF file on a file server you control. One hopes your family values privacy more than either convenience or bolstering the bottom line of known spy agencies such as Google.

Comment Online storage unnecessary for leaking (Score 1) 110

An air-gapped computer still has to have trusted people accessing it, hence each person represents a potential point of failure. The more updating these air-gapped computer records require the more frequent the on-site people use the air-gapped computers and the more opportunity any of them can copy data to a portable storage device. Leaks happen because people in-the-know who have a conscience choose to publish the confidential records. This predates the use of computers.

Comment Disinterest in privacy misreported, misunderstood (Score 1) 71

Alleged public disinterest in the Snowden revelations and their consequences is misreported and misunderstood. I've only ever seen such claims in forums like /. where people can easily post under multiple handles in an attempt to misrepresent their numbers. The international special meetings amongst heads of state (including Chancellor Merkel's self-centered caring about spying involving her equipment), the rush to encrypt things in internal networks (and to publicize such encryption) and user-facing products, and the fear of being seen as indifferent to spying (Apple, Google, and Microsoft have all recently participated in this, one corporate PR "story" from Microsoft was repeated close to this story on /.) are clear counterexamples to the allegation that people don't care. If people were genuinely as indifferent as claimed there would be no point in being seen to care about user's privacy. But I think Glenn Greenwald said it best:

One really interesting aspect of this is, a lot of people ask what really has changed as a result of Edward Snowden's revelations, and sometimes people express the view that not much has, by which they mean that there's not a lot of laws that have been passed limiting the NSA's ability to spy. But one critical change, a really fundamental and significant one, has been that prior to the Snowden revelations, Silicon Valley companies, like Apple and Facebook and Google and Yahoo, were full-scale collaborators with the NSA's effort to collect everything, essentially, to turn the Internet into an unlimited realm of surveillance. And they were able to do that because nobody knew they were doing it, and so there was no cost. Once we were able to shine a light on the cooperation between Silicon Valley and the NSA as a result of Edward Snowden, there was a huge cost to these companies, which was that people around the world would be unwilling to use their services and would instead move to South Korean or German or Brazilian social media companies that protected their privacy. And so these companies needed to say, "We are willing now to protect your privacy by putting encryption products into our products that will not let the government invade your communications and see what you're doing." And there is now a serious wedge between the U.S. government, on the one hand, and Silicon Valley, on the other—not because these companies suddenly care about privacy. They don't care about privacy at all. It's because they perceive it as being within their self-interest to demonstrate a commitment to privacy. And that has created a real difficulty for the NSA and for its allied agencies around the world to be able to intrude into people's private communications.

Comment /. title expresses unethical power over owners (Score 1) 44

"Bike Company Lets Users Create Replacement Parts" is a part of the problem. That word ("Lets") creates the impression that before the issue is even discussed EditorDavid and whomever else is involved in writing /. article posts has decided the default should be to deny bicycle owners the freedom to help themselves by making replacement parts with or without the vendor's cooperation and thus this requires permission. Therefore we're supposed to think it's generous that a bike company "lets" people do this. Nonsense.

It's nice when manufacturers make it easier for owners to make and install replacement parts but it's wrong and unhealthy for the public to view the situation as though this behavior is off-limits by default unless permission is granted. One should celebrate this cooperation and use this cooperation as a reason to do business with these organizations. But don't hobble yourselves into seeking permission to maintain things you own. Down that road lies a lack of freedom, DRM, and more.

A better headline would be to replace "Lets" with "Helps".

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