Respectful Software

To what extent should Free Software respect its users?

The question, strange as it may sound, is not only valid but also becoming more and more important these days. If you think that the four freedoms are enough to guarantee that the Free Software will respect the user, you are probably being oversimplistic. The four freedoms are essential, but they are not sufficient. You need more. I need more. And this is why I think the Free Software movement should have been called the Respectful Software movement.

I know I will probably hear that I am too radical. And I know I will hear it even from those who defend Free Software the way I do. But I need to express this feeling I have, even though I may be wrong about it.

It all began as an innocent comment. I make lots of presentations and talks about Free Software, and, knowing that the word “Free” is ambiguous in English, I started joking that Richard Stallman should have named the movement “Respectful Software”, instead of “Free Software”. If you think about it just a little, you will see that “respect” is a word that brings different interpretations to different people, just as “free” does. It is a subjective word. However, at least it does not have the problem of referring to completely unrelated things such as “price” and “freedom”. Respect is respect, and everybody knows it. What can change (and often does) is what a person considers respectful or not.

(I am obviously not considering the possible ambiguity that may exist in another language with the word “respect”.)

So, back to the software world. I want you to imagine a Free Software. For example, let’s consider one that is used to connect to so-called “social networks” like GNU Social or pump.io. I do not want to use a specific example here; I am more interested in the consequences of a certain decision. Which decision? Keep reading :-).

Now, let’s imagine that this Free Software is just beginning its life, probably in some code repository under the control of its developer(s), but most likely using some proprietary service like GitHub (which is an issue by itself). And probably the developer is thinking: “Which social network should my software support first?”. This is an extremely valid and important question, but sometimes the developer comes up with an answer that may not be satisfactory to its users. This is where the “respect” comes into play.

In our case, this bad answer would be “Facebook”, “Twitter”, “Linkedin”, or any other unethical social network. However, those are exactly the easiest answers for many and many Free Software developers, either because those “vampiric” services are popular among users, or because the developer him/herself uses them!! By now, you should be able to see where I am getting at. My point, in a simple question, is: “How far should we, Free Software developers, allow users to go and harm themselves and the community?”. Yes, this is not just a matter of self-inflicted restrictions, as when the user chooses to use a non-free software to edit a text file, for example. It is, in most cases, a matter of harming the community too. (I have written a post related to this issue a while ago, called “Privacy as a Collective Good <post/2014-05-15-privacy-collective-good>”.)

It should be easy to see that it does not matter if I am using Facebook through my shiny Free Software application on my computer or cellphone. What really matters is that, when doing so, you are basically supporting the use of those unethical social networks, to the point that perhaps some of your friends are also using them because of you. What does it matter if they are using Free Software to access them or not? Is the benefit offered by the Free Software big enough to eliminate (or even soften) the problems that exist when the user uses an unethical service like Linkedin?

I wonder, though, what is the limit that we should obey. Where should we draw the line and say “I will not pass beyond this point”? Should we just “abandon” the users of those unethical services and social networks, while we lock ourselves in our not-very-safe world? After all, we need to communicate with them in order to bring them to our cause, but it is hard doing so without getting our hands dirty. But that is a discussion to another post, I believe.

Meanwhile, I could give plenty of examples of existing Free Softwares that are doing a disservice to the community by allowing (and even promoting) unethical services or solutions for their users. They are disrespecting their users, sometimes exploiting the fact that many users are not fully aware of privacy issues that come as a “gift” when you use those services, without spending any kind of effort to teach the users. However, I do not want this post to become a flamewar, so I will not mention any software explicitly. I think it should be quite easy for the reader to find examples out there.

Perhaps this post does not have a conclusion. I myself have not made my mind completely about the subject, though I am obviously leaning towards what most people would call the “radical” solution. But it is definitely not an easy topic to discuss, or to argument about. Nonetheless, we are closing our eyes to it, and we should not do so. The future of Free Software depends also on what kinds of services we promote, and what kinds of services we actually warn the users against. This is my definition of respect, and this is why I think we should develop Free and Respectful Software.


Fedora on an Acer C720P Chromebook

Yes, you are reading correctly: I decided to buy a freacking Chromebook. I really needed a lightweight notebook with me for my daily hackings while waiting for my subway station, and this one seemed to be the best option available when comparing models and prices. To be fair, and before you throw me rocks, I visited the LibreBoot X60’s website for some time, because I was strongly considering buying one (even considering its weight); however, they did not have it in stock, and I did not want to wait anymore, so…

Anyway, as one might expect, configuring GNU/Linux on notebooks is becoming harder as time goes by, either because the infamous Secure Boot (anti-)feature, or because they come with more and more devices that demand proprietary crap to be loaded. But fortunately, it is still possible to overcome most of those problems and still get a GNU/Linux distro running.

References

For main reference, I used the following websites:

I also used other references for small problems that I had during the configuration, and I will list them when needed.

Backing up ChromeOS

The first thing you will probably want to do is to make a recovery image of the ChromeOS that comes pre-installed in the machine, in case things go wrong. Unfortunately, to do that you need to have a Google account, otherwise the system will fail to record the image. So, if you want to let Google know that you bought a Chromebook, login into the system, open Chrome, and go to the special URL chrome://imageburner. You will need a 4 GiB pendrive/sdcard. It should be pretty straightforward to do the recording from there.

Screw the screw

Now comes the hard part. This notebook comes with a write-protect screw. You might be thinking: what is the purpose of this screw?

Well, the thing is: Chromebooks come with their own boot scheme, which unfortunately doesn’t work to boot Linux. However, newer models also offer a “legacy boot” option (SeaBIOS), and this can boot Linux. So far, so good, but…

When you switch to SeaBIOS (details below), the system will complain that it cannot find ChromeOS, and will ask if you want to reinstall the system. This will happen every time you boot the machine, because the system is still entering the default BIOS. In order to activate SeaBIOS, you have to press CTRL-L (Control + L) every time you boot! And this is where the screw comes into play.

If you remove the write-protect screw, you will be able to make the system use SeaBIOS by default, and therefore will not need to worry about pressing CTRL-L every time. Sounds good? Maybe not so much…

The first thing to consider is that you will lose your warranty the moment you open the notebook case. As I was not very concerned about it, I decided to try to remove the screw, and guess what happened? I stripped the screw! I am still not sure why that happened, because I was using the correct screw driver for the job, but when I tried to remove the screw, it seemed like butter and started to “decompose”!

Anyway, after spending many hours trying to figure out a way to remove the screw, I gave up. My intention is to always suspend the system, so I rarely need to press CTRL-L anyway…

Well, that’s all I have to say about this screwed screw. If you decide to try removing it, keep in mind that I cannot help you in any way, and that you are entirely responsible for what happens.

Now, let’s install the system :-).

Enable Developer Mode

You need to enable the Developer Mode in order to be able to enable SeaBIOS. To do that, follow these steps from the Arch[GNU/]Linux wiki page.

I don’t remember if this step works if you don’t have activated the ChromeOS (i.e., if you don’t have a Google account associated with the device). For my use, I just created a fake account to be able to proceed.

Accessing the superuser shell inside ChromeOS

Now, you will need to access the superuser (root) shell inside ChromeOS, to enable SeaBIOS. Follow the steps described in the Arch[GNU/]Linux wiki page. For this specific step, you don’t need to login, which is good.

Enabling SeaBIOS

We’re almost there! The last step before you boot your Fedora LiveUSB is to actually enable SeaBIOS. Just go inside your superuser shell (from the previous step) and type:

> crossystem dev_boot_usb=1 dev_boot_legacy=1

And that’s it!

If you managed to successfuly remove the write-protect screw, you may also want to enable booting SeaBIOS by default. To do that, there is a guide, again on Arch[GNU/]Linux wiki. DO NOT DO THAT IF YOU DID NOT REMOVE THE WRITE-PROTECT SCREW!!!!

Booting Fedora

Now, we should finally be able to boot Fedora! Remember, you will have to press CTRL-L after you reboot (if you have not removed the write-protect screw), otherwise the system will just complain and not boot into SeaBIOS. So, press CTRL-L, choose the boot order (you will probably want to boot from USB first, if your Fedora is on a USB stick), choose to boot the live Fedora image, and… bum!! You will probably see a message complaining that there was not enough memory to boot (the message is “Not enough memory to load specified image”).

You can solve that by passing the mem parameter to Linux. So, when GRUB complains that it was unable to load the specified image, it will give you a command prompt (boot:), and you just need to type:

boot: linux mem=1980M

And that’s it, things should work.

Installing the system

I won’t guide you through the installation process; I just want to remember you that you have a 32 GiB SSD drive, so think carefully before you decide how you want to set up the partitions. What I did was to reserve 1 GB for my swap, and take all the rest to the root partition (i.e., I did not create a separate /home partition).

You will also notice that the touchpad does not work (neither does the touchscreen). So you will have to do the installation using a USB mouse for now.

Getting the touchpad to work

I strongly recommend you to read this Fedora bug, which is mostly about the touchpad/touchscreen support, but also covers other interesting topics as well.

Anyway, the bug is still being constantly updated, because the proposed patches to make the touchpad/touchscreen work were not fully integrated into Linux yet. So, depending on the version of Linux that you are running, you will probably need to run a different version of the scripts that are being kindly provided in the bug.

As of this writing, I am running Linux 3.16.2-201.fc20, and the script that does the job for me is this one. If you are like me, you will never run a script without looking at what it does, so go there and do it, I will wait :-).

OK, now that you are confident, run the script (as root, of course), and confirm that it actually installs the necessary drivers to make the devices work. In my case, I only got the touchpad working, even though the touchscreen is also covered by this script. However, since I don’t want the touchscreen, I did not investigate this further.

After the installation, reboot your system and at least your touchpad should be working :-). Or kind of…

What happened to me was that I was getting strange behaviors with the touchpad. Sometimes (randomly), its sensitivity became weird, and it was very hard to move the pointer or to click on things. Fortunately, I found the solution in the same bug, in this comment by Yannick Defais. After creating this X11 configuration file, everything worked fine.

Getting suspend to work

Now comes the hard part. My next challenge was to get suspend to work, because (as I said above) I don’t want to poweroff/poweron every time.

My first obvious attempt was to try to suspend using the current configuration that came with Fedora. The notebook actually suspended, but then it resumed 1 second later, and the system froze (i.e., I had to force the shutdown by holding the power button for a few seconds). Hmm, it smelled like this would take some effort, and my nose was right.

After a lot of search (and asking in the bug), I found out about a few Linux flags that I could provide in boot time. To save you time, this is what I have now in my /etc/default/grub file:

GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX="tpm_tis.force=1 tpm_tis.interrupts=0 ..."

The final ... means that you should keep whatever was there before you included those parameters, of course. Also, after you edit this file, you need to regenerate the GRUB configuration file on /boot. Run the following command as root:

> grub2-mkconfig -o /boot/grub2/grub.cfg

Then, after I rebooted the system, I found that only adding those flags was still not enough. I saw a bunch of errors on dmesg, which showed me that there was some problem with EHCI and xHCI. After a few more research, I found the this comment on an Arch[GNU/]Linux forum. Just follow the steps there (i.e., create the necessary files, especially the /usr/lib/systemd/system-sleep/cros-sound-suspend.sh), and things should start to get better. But not yet…

Now, you will see that suspend/resume work OK, but when you suspend, the system will still resume after 1 second or so. Basically, this happens because the system is using the touchpad and the touchscreen to determine whether it should resume from suspend or not. So basically what you have to do is to disable those sources of events:

echo TPAD > /proc/acpi/wakeup
echo TSCR > /proc/acpi/wakeup

And voilà! Now everything should work as expected :-). You might want to issue those commands every time you boot the system, in order to get suspend to work every time, of course. To do that, you can create a /etc/rc.d/rc.local, which gets executed when the system starts:

> cat /etc/rc.d/rc.local
#!/bin/bash

suspend_tricks()
{
  echo TPAD > /proc/acpi/wakeup
  echo TSCR > /proc/acpi/wakeup
}

suspend_tricks

exit 0

Don’t forget to make this file executable:

> chmod +x /etc/rc.d/rc.local

Conclusion

Overall, I am happy with the machine. I still haven’t tried installing Linux-libre on it, so I am not sure if it can work without binary blobs and proprietary craps.

I found the keyboard comfortable, and the touchpad OK. The only extra issue I had was using the Canadian/French/whatever keyboard that comes with it, because it lacks some useful keys for me, like Page Up/Down, Insert, and a few others. So far, I am working around this issue by using xbindkeys and xvkdb.

I do not recommend this machine if you are not tech-savvy enough to follow the steps listed in this post. If that is the case, then consider buying a machine that can easily run GNU/Linux, because you feel much more comfortable configuring it!


Encrypting your e-mails to yourself using GnuPG

It has been a while since I dream of being able to send encrypted e-mail to everyone in my contact list. It is still a distant future, but fortunately it is getting closer with campaigns like the Reset the Net. And while I already send encrypted messages to a couple of friends, it is always good to discover (and share!) some configuration tips to make your life easy :-).

I use Gnus as my e-mail (and news!) reader for quite a while, and I can say it is a very nice piece of software (kudos to Lars and all the devs!). For those who are not aware, Gnus runs inside Emacs, which is a very nice operating system (and text editor also).

Emacs provides EasyPG for those who want to make use of cryptographic operations inside it, and Gnus also uses it to encrypt/decrypt the messages it handles. I am using it for my own messages, and it works like a charm. However, there was something that I had not had configured properly: the ability to read the encrypted messages that I was sending to my friends.

In a brief explanation, when you send an encrypted message GnuPG looks at the recipients of the message (i.e., the people that will receive it, listed in the “From:”, “Cc:” and “Bcc:” fields) and encrypts it according to each recipient’s public key, which must be present in your local keyring. But when you send a message to someone, you are not (usually) present in the original recipients list, so GnuPG does not encrypt the message using your public key, and therefore you are unable to read the message later. In fact, this example can be used to illustrate how secure this system really is, when not even the sender can read his/her message again!

Anyway, this behavior was mostly unnoticed by me because I rarely look at my “Sent/” IMAP folder. Until today. And it kind of pissed me off, because I wanted to read what I wrote, damn it! So, after looking for a solution, I found a neat GnuPG setting called hidden-encrypt-to. It basically tells GnuPG to add a hidden recipient in every message it encrypts. So, all I had to do was to provide my key’s ID and ask GnuPG to always encrypt the message to myself too.

You basically have to edit your $HOME/.gnupg/gpg.conf file and put this setting there:

That’s it. Now, whenever I send an encrypted message, GnuPG encrypts it for me as well, so I just need to go to my “Sent/” folder, and decrypt it to read.

I hope this tip helps you the same way it helped me!


FISL 15: Impressões, opiniões e discussões

Após quase 1 mês, cá estou pra compartilhar minhas impressões a respeito do FISL 15, que aconteceu em Porto Alegre, RS, entre os dias 7 e 10 de Maio de 2014.

Antes de mais nada, gostaria de fazer um pequeno “jabá”. Acho que mereço, por conta do trabalho que tive pra fazer isso (já explico) dar certo! Estou falando da palestra do Diego Aranha, que foi um dos destaques dessa edição do evento. A palestra, entitulada Software Livre e Segurança Eleitoral (veja o vídeo dela aqui) é, na minha opinião, algo que todo cidadão brasileiro deveria assistir e refletir a respeito. Comecei a me envolver mais no assunto da urna eletrônica brasileira depois que assisti essa mesma palestra (proferida pelo próprio Diego), há mais de 1 ano atrás, na UNICAMP. Considero impossível não se sentir minimamente indignado com a falta de escrúpulos (e de competência!) daqueles que, teoricamente, estão zelando pela democracia no país.

Enfim, depois de assistir essa palestra pelo menos umas 3 vezes (sendo uma delas na edição do Software Freedom Day Campinas, que eu organizei em nome do LibrePlanet São Paulo), achei que devesse tentar “mexer os pauzinhos” e colocá-la na grade oficial do FISL. Só pra garantir, eu e o Diego também submetemos a mesma palestra pelo sistema normal de submissão. Mas no fim, depois de conversar com algumas pessoas “de dentro” (agradecimento especial ao Paulo Meirelles da UnB nesse ponto), consegui encaixar o Diego na grade de destaques do evento! Foi uma grande conquista, e tenho certeza de que quem viu a palestra saiu de lá com a pulga atrás da orelha…

Mas enfim, vamos aos fatos. Minha participação no FISL desse ano foi mais tímida do que no ano passado, mas após alguma reflexão, cheguei à conclusão de que ela também foi mais proveitosa. Apesar de ter submetido praticamente 8 propostas de palestras, cobrindo os mais diferentes níveis e assuntos, não tive nenhuma proposta aceita! Obviamente fiquei bastante chateado com isso, ainda mais depois de ver o nível de algumas palestras que foram aprovadas… Confesso que considerei não ir ao evento, já que, além de não ter tido nenhuma palestra aprovada (o que significava que eu não receberia nenhum patrocínio pra ir), também não ia poder rever muitos amigos que não puderam comparecer nessa edição (podem botar isso na conta da Copa).

Passada a fase de chorar as pitangas, decidi ir de qualquer maneira. O Alexandre Oliva havia me convidado para fazer parte de uma “mesa redonda” cujo objetivo era debater a suposta morte do movimento Software Livre no Brasil. Senti-me honrado com o convite, e como participo da causa há bastante tempo, tinha bastante coisa a dizer. Foi uma honra ter feito parte da mesa com o próprio Oliva, o Anahuac, o Fred, e o Panaggio. Tivemos 2 horas para falar nossas opiniões a respeito do tema, e abrir a discussão para o público presente no auditório. Infelizmente, acabou sendo muito pouco tempo para tanta coisa que tínhamos pra falar! Eu mesmo acabei dizendo muito pouco, e resolvi parar antes para deixar a platéia se manifestar, na esperança de que o microfone iria voltar às minhas mãos para que eu pudesse fazer as considerações finais. Ledo engano! Todos queriam um pedacinho do tempo, e acabou que ficou faltando muita coisa a ser dita, de ambos os lados (palestrantes e platéia). Aliás, se quiser ver o vídeo do debate, faça o download dele aqui.

Não é exagero dizer que esse debate explicitou um sentimento recorrente nos ativistas do movimento Software Livre. Há algum tempo vínhamos tendo essa “consciência coletiva” de que as coisas não estavam muito bem pro lado do Software Livre (ao contrário do Open Source, que vai de vento em popa). Eu mesmo já havia feito alguns posts a respeito do assunto, e do meu incômodo quando pedi para que o nome Software Livre não fosse utilizado indevidamente (post em inglês), e o Anahuac levantou esse ponto durante o debate também. Achei bastante sintomático isso. E depois que voltei do FISL comecei a pensar bastante a respeito desses (e outros) assuntos novamente, o que já gerou alguns posts por aqui.

Gostei, também, da maior parte das colocações que ouvi da platéia. Apesar de eu ter tido a impressão de que algumas pessoas não entenderam muito bem o que estava sendo discutido, considero que os contrapontos levantados por parte da platéia são dignos de serem pensados, mesmo que a pessoa que trouxe esses contrapontos não seja necessariamente uma ativista. Talvez eu prepare mais um post a respeito do que ouvi por lá…

Por último, já no final da palestra, não pude deixar de pedir o microfone pro Oliva e levantar um ponto que eu queria que tivesse tido mais atenção: precisamos hackear mais! O Software Livre, enquanto movimento social e político, precisa de pessoas que discutam e tragam à tona os problemas que nós, como sociedade, devemos resolver. No entanto, o Software Livre também é um movimento técnico, e como tal precisa de ferramentas que façam frente ao domínio proprietário. Hackers, precisamos de vocês :-).

Mas… mudando um pouco de assunto, eu também fui ao evento para divulgar, mais uma vez, o nosso grupo de Software Livre, chamado LibrePlanet São Paulo. Nesse ano, levamos duas propostas interessantes ao evento: contas grátis na nossa instância do GNU Social, e no nosso servidor Jabber.

O GNU Social, que antes era conhecido como StatusNet (e que era utilizado pelo site Identica, que depois migrou para um outro tipo de serviço), é como se fosse um “Twitter distribuído”, implementado com Software Livre. O ponto é que você consegue utilizar seu próprio servidor (se quiser), e consegue conversar com pessoas que estão usando GNU Social em outros servidores. Se quiser registrar sua conta na nossa instância do GNU Social, pode acessar a página de cadastro.

O Jabber (XMPP) é um “conhecido anônimo” de quase todos. É a tecnologia que o Google Talk, o Facebook Chat, o WhatsApp, e vários outros serviços proprietários utilizam. Nós, do LibrePlanet São Paulo, estamos oferecendo contas de graça no nosso servidor Jabber. Ainda não possuímos uma página de cadastro de usuários, então se você quiser uma conta, entre em contato comigo através do e-mail (ou deixe um comentário aqui). É importante dizer que o Jabber/XMPP também é um protocolo totalmente distribuído, e que você vai conseguir conversar com outras pessoas que estão utilizando Jabber em outros servidores! Infelizmente, você não vai poder falar com quem usa o Facebook Chat e o WhatsApp, porque essas empresas proíbem essa funcionalidade. O Google permitia isso para quem utilizava o Google Chat “normal”; se a pessoa já tiver migrado para o Hangout, ela também não vai conseguir falar com outros servidores Jabber. Mais um motivo pra largar esses “serviços” vampíricos, não acha? :-).

O saldo final foi de 5 contas Jabber criadas, e nenhuma conta GNU Social. Infelizmente, isso é absolutamente normal em qualquer tipo de evento; o FISL, apesar de ter “SL” no nome, é, em sua esmagadora maioria, composto por pessoas que às vezes não se importam tanto com a parte social.

Por último, gostaria de deixar registrado o excelente trabalho que o pessoal do LibrePlanet São Paulo e Espírito Santo fizeram durante o Encontro Comunitário dos grupos. Veja o vídeo do encontro aqui.

No final, fiquei feliz com o resultado do evento. O ponto alto, pra mim, certamente foi o debate. Acho que uma “mexida” no status quo é sempre bem vinda, e foi isso que tentamos fazer. Esse movimento acabou gerando atividade dos dois lados (Software Livre e Open Source), e também ajudou-nos a diferenciar melhor quem é quem nessa história toda. Agora, é esperar o próximo FISL pra ver o que saiu e o que ficou no lugar. Até lá!

Abraços!


Being Permissive, the new Popular

This post is massively inspired by a post in the gnu-prog-discuss mailing list. This is a closed list of the GNU Project, and only GNU maintainers and contributors can join, so I cannot put a link to the original message (by Mike Gerwitz), but this topic is being discussed over and over again at many places, so you will not have trouble finding similar opinions. I am also “responding” to a recent discussion that I had with Luiz Izidoro, which is a “friend” (as he himself likes to say) of the LibrePlanet São Paulo group.

Mike’s point is simple: we, Free Software activists, are the geeks (or nerds) at school, surrounded by the “popular guys” all over again. In case it is not clear, the “popular guys” are the people who do not care about the Free Software ideology; the programmers who license their softwares using permissive licenses using the excuse of “more freedom”, but give away their work to increase the proprietary world.

It is undeniable that the Free Software, as a technical movement, has won. Anywhere you look, you see Free Software being developed and used. It is important to say that by “Free Software” I mean not only copyleft programs, but also permissive ones. However, it is also undeniable that several proprietary programs and solutions are being developed with the help of those permissive Free Softwares, without giving anything back to the community, as usual.

Numbers speak for themselves, so I am posting here the example that Mike used in his message, about Trello, a “web-based project management application”, according to Wikipedia. It is quite popular among project managers, and I know about two or three companies that use it, though I have never used it myself (luckily). Being web-based, it is full of Javascript code, and I appreciated the work Mike had to determine which pieces of Free Software Trello uses. The result is:

jQuery, Sizzle, jQuery UI, jQuery Widget, jQuery UI Mouse, jQuery UI Position, jQuery UI Draggable, jQuery UI Droppable, jQuery UI Sortable, jQuery UI Datepicker, Hogan, Backbone, JSON2 (Crockford), Markdown.js, Socket.io, Underscore.js, Bootstrap, Backbone, and Mustache

You can see the license headers of all those projects here:

This is only on the client-side, i.e., the Javascript portion. I will not post the link to the full Javascript code (condensed in one single file) because I do not have permission to do so, but it should not be hard to take a look yourself if you are curious.

On the server side, Mike came up with this list of Free Softwares being used by Trello:

MongoDB, Redis, Node.js, HAProxy, Express, Connect, Cluster, node_redis, Mongoose, node-mogodb-native, async, CofeeScript, and probably more

Quite a lot of Free Software, right? And Trello advertises itself as being “free”, which might confuse the inexperient reader because they are talking about price, not about freedom.

The lesson we learn is obvious but no less painful. He who contributes to Free Software using permissive licenses is directly contributing to the dissemination of proprietary software. And the corolary should be obvious as well: you are being exploited. Another nice addition made by Mike is a quote by Larry Ellison, CEO and founder of Oracle Corporation, about Free Software (and Open Source):

“If an open source product gets good enough, we’ll simply take it…. So the great thing about open source is nobody owns it – a company like Oracle is free to take it for nothing, include it in our products and charge for support, and that’s what we’ll do. So it is not disruptive at all – you have to find places to add value. Once open source gets good enough, competing with it would be insane. … We don’t have to fight open source, we have to exploit open source.”

So, do you really think you have more freedom because you can choose BSD/MIT over GPL? Do you really think you it doesn’t matter what other people do to your code, which you released as a Free Software? What are your goal with this movement, contribute to a better Free Software ecosystem (which will lead to a society which is more fair), or just getting your name in the hall of (f|sh)ame?

Back to the initial point, about not being “popular” among your friends (or be the “radical”, “extremist”, and other adjectives), I believe Mike hit the nail when he said that, because that is exactly how I am feeling currently, and I know other Free Softwares activists feel exactly the same. To defend a copyleft license is to defend something that is wrong, because, in the “popular kids’ view”, copyleft is about anything but freedom! The cool thing now is to be indifferent, or even to think that it is nice that proprietary software can coexist with Free Software, so let’s give it a help and release everything we can under permissive licenses. I could mention lots of very nice Free Softwares that chose to be permissive because their maintainers thought (and still think) GPL is evil.

I contributed and still contribute to some Free Softwares that are permissive licensed. And despite trying to use only copyleft software, sometimes I replace some of them by permissive ones, and do not feel guilty about it. I do that because I believe in Free Software, and I believe we should support it in every way we can. But doing so is also nocive to our cause. We are supporting softwares that are contributing to the proprietary world, even if that is not what their developers want. We are making it very easy for people like Larry Ellison to win and think they can exploit what other people are doing for free(dom). We are feeding our own enemy in their mouths. And we should be very careful about that.

This post is a request. I am asking you a favor. Please, consider (re)licensing your project using a copyleft license. If you do value what Free Software is about (or even what Open Source is about!), then help spread it by not helping the proprietary side. I am not asking you to join our ideological cause (or maybe I am?); feel free to stay out of this if you want. But please, at least consider helping the Free Software community by avoiding making your code permissive, which will give too much power to the unethical side.

Thank you!