I saw Richard Stallman, and all I got was a keyring and a sticker.

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RMS in his infamous St iGNUcious costume

I first heard about the “Seminar on Software Freedom and Danger of Software Patents” from Screenshots. I registered at the link provided and managed to rope my colleagues in as well (which wasn’t difficult, considering they were all Linux GNU/Linux enthusiasts as well).

We got to UM’s Computer Science and IT Faculty around 1.30 pm (the seminar was to kick off at 2) and after being directed to the Lecture Hall, we parked our rear ends at a spot towards the back of the hall.

I was hoping to see some familiar faces in the small crowd – and I did. There was local hacker legend – and one of the co-founders of Project Petaling StreetDinesh Nair, who was accompanied by Prema, and there was also the unmistakeable (tall) figure of the ShaolinTiger himself.

Update: Blogger Wye Jon Lee was there as well, and he also spotted another blogger, KY. I wonder how many more bloggers were in attendance…

I did introduce myself to ShaolinTiger – just to see if I could take him on – but I don’t think I made any impression. In any case, I’m pretty sure I can defeat him in a fight.*

Anyway, before the much-awaited talk by RMS, we were subjected to a brief presentation on the local MyOSS open-source community, followed by an unfortunately boring presentation by MAMPU. (The reason I found it boring was because I’d been to another free and open-source software (FOSS) seminar a few months back, and was subjected to the exact same presentation – complete with near-identical slides too.)

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RMS and the lady from MAMPU

Finally, RMS took the stage and began talking about the dangers of software patents. Before he started, he pointed out that he would divide his talk into two parts: the first part would be non-controversial, while the second would be quite the opposite. Software patents fell under the first part.

I don’t want to rehash everything he said – primarily because I don’t think I can do his thoughts justice. I do heartily recommend that you check out the Wikipedia page on him – a comprehensive list of almost everything you want to know about him and his principles and beliefs.

Mainly though, he spoke on how software patents can cripple and kill software innovation, the problems faced by many software developers in the US in developing new algortihms and programs, the challenges faced by the GNU developers and how big corporations push for software patenting in order to enrich themselves.

The second part of his talk definitely generated more heat, though. He started by explaining his four levels of freedom in relation to software:

  • the freedom to run the program for any purpose (called “freedom 0”)
  • the freedom to study and modify the program (“freedom 1”)
  • the freedom to copy the program so you can help your neighbor (“freedom 2”)
  • the freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits (“freedom 3”)

from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_software

And then he goes on to call on people to stop using non-free software, because it’s not just about saving money etc, but it’s about the fundamental aspects of freedom that’s at stake here. As he says, when people stop caring about freedom, they lose it.

There was also this moment when he discussed his reasons for beginning the GNU project, and he calls it a moral compulsion: It’s like seeing someone drowning, and if you know how to swim, and if the guy drowning is not Bush, then he must jump in to rescue the victim. It’s just the right thing to do.

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RMS close-up


Oh, and at the end, Stallman sold some keyrings for RM 50 and gave away a lot of “GNU & Linux” stickers. He even gave autographs – some got charged for it too, if they didn’t buy anything – but since I’ve never been keen on autographs of any kind, I didn’t get it.

And that’s a wrap.

OK, I’m hungry now, so off to lunch….

* No, I can’t.**
** Yes, I can. Don’t be defeatist.***
*** Defeatist?? The guy’s a freakin’ giant!! The best I can do is kick his balls and run like hell!****
**** So who says you gotta fight fair?


10 thoughts on “I saw Richard Stallman, and all I got was a keyring and a sticker.”

  1. it’s either the guy adores the Hobo generation or he’s just too darn lazy to go out to a 7-11 store and get a shaving stick and pay 10 bucks for a decent hair cut… lol

    btw thanks for visiting my site man…would u like to exchange links?? πŸ™‚

  2. Dude, you and I were in the same room together!!!

    I was the guy who walked in behind Dinesh and Prema after they had their ciggie break during the pre-RMS festivities. I left quickly after the end, though.

  3. There is no such thing as a fair fight, unless it’s in a ring with no rules, whoever goes furthest wins πŸ˜‰

    Was a good talk, sorry if I wasn’t very responsive I’d just finished a 4 hour exam including some hardcore packet monkey skills and my brain was pretty drained..

    BTW. Don’t assume I’m not well-versed in the art of dirty fighting ;P

  4. Missing punctuation is the problem πŸ˜‰

    It should read “There is no such thing as a fair fight, unless it’s in a ring (i.e combat sports like boxing with rules, regulations etc.). With no rules, whoever goes furthest wins.”

  5. centerpide: I don’t usually exchange links. If I like the blog enough, I’ll link to it. Likewise, it’s entirely up to you if you want to link to me. πŸ™‚

    Dzof: Too bad I didn’t catch up with ya – I could’ve paid ya for all the plugging you’ve done for this blog at PPS Review… πŸ˜‰

    ST: On second (and third, fourth, fifth) thoughts, I’m starting to think that in a fight, there may be a very small possibility that I will actually lose. πŸ˜‰

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