Some days ago Richard Stallman was speaking at the University of Trento, Faculty of Sociology. It was a great day. Stallman spoke most of the time of freedom, of sharing, of helping your friends and neighbours. These are the reasons behind GNU. Check his biography if you don’t know who he is.
I took some photos of that day: in the photo on the left, I’m with Stallman, Napo and Arianna.
Emanuele recorded a complete video (courtesely hosted by archive.org, if you need to host videos, audios, do it on archive.org and make them available to everyone! you can also just watch the thumbnails) and there is also the audio. And if you like sounds, you might enjoy a compilation of free software songs (collected on the wonderful Webjay).
There were 2 conference rooms totally full of people (I arrived in time, but the first room was already overfull and I had to (try to) enter in the second one where it was possible to follow Stallman’s talk in videoconference. Stallman seems very rigid, very extremist and enough arrogant, for example he interrupted some of the people asking questions because they were “sloppy thinking”, i.e. not being precise enough. Anyway I should say I like this. He is convinced of what he says. He spoke (al least 50 times) of freedom, of sharing, of helping other people. He was not happy with was going on in the software world almost 20 years ago and he started (from scratch!) in building another world. I would like to be so convinced about something, so convinced that I could start a long journey against almost everyone and not understood by almost everyone to defend what I value. Stallman seems a modern sort of Don Quixote, fighting against the windmills. But and this is a great but, I think we are now seeing that the windmills are starting to crack down. And all this would not have been possible without him. And this is great. He believed in something and he started fighting for it and he still fighting. When he started nobody was speaking of free software and now countries, big cities, normal people are speaking about it. This is great! He is travelling around the world repeating the same concepts that were so clear to him 20 years ago and that are, even now, obscure to most of the people (me too, of course). It is probably boring for him speaking every day of freedom number 0, 1, 2, 3 but I guess this is what happens when you are so ahead of time.
He is asking to call the operating systems we use GNU/Linux and not Linux in order to let other people know that what is behind it are not sterile engineering design principles but a will for freedom. Also Linux is just the kernel that is a small part of the operating system, a fondamental one but still a small part.
Anyway I also understood why someone started the Open Source Initiative. Stallman could not speak one second with business men. Business men don’t care about freedom, they care about saving money or using/creating a better product. Anyway business men can be a great ally here (just think how much IBM or Sun are doing for open source movement) and hence I think that the Open Source Initiative is a great one. But Stallman is the philosopher, is the one that makes you think “I can do it, I should do it”.
I’ll try to remember next time I have some small problems with my GNU/Linux system that Stallman started from zero to build a new free system just because he values so much freedom. Compared to this, having to ask in some mailing list how to fix a problem and setting 2 or 3 parameters is really nothing!