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Re: Practicality of GNU project and libre movement

From: Roberto Beltran
Subject: Re: Practicality of GNU project and libre movement
Date: Thu, 23 Jul 2020 19:25:13 +0000

Hey Sagar,

> I read "Free as in Freedom" by Richard Stallman and am a strong supporter of 
> GNU project. I strongly want it to succeed.

It's great to be on the same side of the fence, cheers

> However, when you keep money away from the free software movement, such a 
> movement cannot survive against people who actively charge money for binaries 
> without source code.

It has for almost half a century

> All power arises from concealment.

There are many different types of power, and many ways to conceal things while 
still at least meeting a minimal ethical standard.

> When GNU or libre movement asks contributors or volunteers (both fancy words 
> for "work for me for free"), you present making libre software as a secondary 
> thing rather than a central thing. When projects licensed GPLv3 rely almost 
> completely on "donations" from other, you rely on the donor's generosity for 
> getting food at your table. I really want people to remove reliance on 
> external things and make GNU central and very active.

This is definitely an active conversation in the broader community. Here's the 
relevant wiki page:

I also wrote a blog post on the same topic for LibreMiami:

There are other ideas I've come across since. Ultimately business ain't easy, 
even with proprietary software, and just because someone knows how to code 
doesn't mean they can sell or come up with a good value prop. It takes the 
right people taking the right action to make it happen like that.

At the same time, some people don't want their free software project to be 
their central thing. They might have fun working on it, and rather keep it a 
hobby instead of a job. Nothing wrong with that.

> With such a system, when a coder has to choose between working for Microsoft, 
> Google or GNU projects, I really doubt whether he'll go for GNU. GNU project 
> is not bigger than survival.

That's a false dichotomy and it's not really black and white like that either. 
I know from previous threads that there are plenty of people on here that do 
really well for themselves. Personally, I  got offered work a few months back 
from a local nonprofit that does free software projects after I came at them 
with some ideas. They get their money from Microsoft, among other sources. Most 
of the time I'm a web dev, and I sleep well at night knowing I help put food on 
people's tables by getting more business through the door, and I don't really 
have to step on anyone's freedom to do it.

> Having libre hardware(none yet wrt computer), libre booting software(most 
> hardware is incompatible), libre OS(Done) and libre basic tools(Done) like 
> compilers and building tools are central for freedom. Applications still can 
> be proprietary when their ability to exploit can be limited. With the above 4 
> things under control of power-hungry people today, I don't see Windows going 
> away. It's getting worse with smart devices and surveillance devices 
> everywhere. (I really don't get the point of why a smart fridge is even 
> required!!) Today, in the worst case scenario, thinking silently is the only 
> thing one can do without giving your data away.

Libre hardware designs aren't really that important to the end user. It's at 
least not necessary in the same way free software is. I don't think it's 
acceptable for any applications to be proprietary. Privacy also isn't strictly 
a free software issue. We need free software for privacy much more often than 
not, but there are many privacy threats that have little to do with software, 
or what freedoms we have with it. If privacy is your goal, more power to you, 
but even people with no concern with their privacy deserve freedom.

> GNU project needs to have clear concept of how it will generate funds and 
> incentivize people(reasonably talented) to create free software and free 
> hardware and it is not possible with "donations" and "volunteers". It needs 
> to get money with a significant business and marketing force and needs to 
> provide an alternative computer with every component libre which can be used 
> for some purpose like designing (2D graphics with inkscape say). Products can 
> be cheap with minimal profits but profits must be present.

So I don't know much about GNU itself, but if that's how you really feel, I'd 
get involved with what they're doing and bring something up. The nice thing 
about free software though is that if you really feel like your idea is good, 
you can pretty much just go ahead and do it. Nothing is stopping you from 
investing your own cash to deliver the product you're envisioning. People have 
done it before with varying degrees of success. This kind of work benefits 
everyone and you can hire devs. I would say charge whatever will make you the 
most money.

Roberto Beltran

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