A picture of an Apple MacBook sitting next to a user who is running a (obsensibly) Windows HP lapotp

GNUThink

I sometimes get to a point where I question a lot of what I do and what matters to me. Sometimes it’s because of simple things, like a broken tool, or a frustrating problem. Sometimes it’s more of a philosophy problem, where I question how I feel about something and if I should change my ideas or mannerisms behind some action.

Lately, it’s been a little of both. I use an iPhone, Apple Music, iCloud (storage, etc), Office 365, and probably other tools and services that would be considered “non-free” in the “libre” sense. This has lead to me thinking about what I actually want out of computing. It’s such a thorny question, because there are so many comfortable choices that I’m in, that upending them would probably throw my life (and my family’s) into temporary turmoil.

For instance: Office 365. I pay for just the Exchange Online component, because I don’t need the actual Office suite as we (my family) get it free from my school and other organizations that we’re associated with. Exchange Online has been fine from a end-user perspective. Very rarely do I have any real issues to speak of, other than paying for it. My real problem here is that it’s a very proprietary platform, and because of that, it’s moderately difficult to get out of and to connect to with free-software tools. The IMAP support is… functional, but the contacts and calendars are tied down.

Similarly, I have lots of Apple devices and services. Like Office 365, I don’t have any complaints, per se, it’s just that they’re extremely proprietary and that means getting out of the ecosystem is difficult, and like above, connecting using free-software tools is straight up impossible.

The reason I have these things in the first place is that my family, who don’t hold my free-software ideals, want/need access to reliable tools they can use from multiple places. This is not an unreasonable request, and is one that can be solved with enough time, free-software, capital and expertise. Unfortunately, I’m not willing or able to host all of that, or even administer it. I don’t have the time, and I certainly don’t have the specific expertise to do all of it. Hence the current implementation.

Balance between freedom, convenience and cost is a tricky one. While I’d personally like to model myself more in line with the FSF’s computing ideals. The problem is that I have family members that I have to support as well. I’d also like to move them toward more free-software systems. While I recognize their choice in platforms is their own, I also get to say what I will and will not support (kind of, family is so complicated).

I don’t have any kind of resolution for this, I’m still trying to figure out what kind of path I want to take. Is pragmatism the smarter choice? Idealism feels right, but is massively more difficult to implement. There is probably a good middle of the road, but I don’t know if I’m on it. Maybe it doesn’t matter?

What should I do?

Featured Image

“Ugh, a Mac”, by Joe Wilcox – License: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

A picture of people enjoying drinks at a holiday party

Holidays

Holiday parties are difficult for me. I enjoy the season and the sentiment. The problem is that many holiday parties are with people I don’t really know. This means I’m stuck trying to make small talk or glom onto a conversation that I know something about. Usually I just end up sitting alone or “holding a table” for people.

I know this is probably some sort of social anxiety. It sucks, though. I see people around me having fun, conversing and really enjoying it. All the while I can’t stop thinking about how long I am obligated to stay and what I’d rather be doing (like writing this post. Which is what I’m doing instead of partying).

The fact that we have such a large and on-the-clock party should have me thankful for working at such a wonderful company. I am, truly. I don’t think I’ve ever worked anywhere better than here. The problem is me. I am not a people person. Giant parties drain my already limited interaction fuel instantly.

I should really do myself a favor and skip out in the future. I am not required to be here and honesty it just puts me on edge.

What do you think about company Christmas parties?

RMS and Abuse

Content Warning: The following article contains reports of sexual abuse, including rape. If you’re not comfortable with that, then I’d suggest just finding a summary, which I hope to do some of here. Also, it’s on Medium, which does not respect your privacy, so… take it how you will.


There is a rather angry article making the rounds in the Open Source world, today. It centers around the MIT/Epstein clusterfuck and the GNU/FSF director Richard Stallman, usually known as “RMS”. He has strong ties to MIT, where he worked in the Artificial Intelligence Lab back in the 1970’s and likely knew or worked with Marvin Minsky who, allegedly, had sex with one of Epstein’s sex slaves. RMS also started the Free Software Foundation and the GNU Program based on some of the work he did while at the MIT AI Lab.

In the article, RMS replied to a question from a student, and basically danced around the idea by questioning terms and generally acting like someone who doesn’t know how to read the room. That doesn’t really surprise me. The guy is odd, as a person. He’s publicly stated some pretty wild stuff about the age of consent and pedophilia, all centering around picking at the technical reasons or laws surrounding it. I’d really like to see him apologize for his statement or clarify. I imagine he won’t. He’s probably too close to the subject to have an objective viewpoint. His Alma Matter is being attacked and a man who was probably one of his (deceased) colleagues is being run through the mill. His only defense is probably one of picking apart the argument itself.

The whole dumpster fire around Epstein needed to happen. As painful as it is, we need to get it out in the open and deal with it. It’s going to hurt the reputation of Open Source, GNU and the FSF, but there are ways of mitigating it. I hold no allegiance to RMS. He is a man and has made mistakes and should apologize. I disagree with some of the things he says, but agree with many others. He’s done great work and I’ll continue to use and contribute to that work in what ways I can.

The author then goes on to state:

I am ready, now, to join others in calling for burning everything to the ground.

Selam G. – Remove Richard Stallman

So, is this how we deal with problems now? Tear it all down and try and start over again? I think this is an overreaction. If we take this problem solving method further, we’d never accomplish anything. The author should have reached out to RMS directly. Talked with him like a rational human being and see if there is something she’s missing or point out the same to him. Now she’s plastered all over the F/OSS world, with some rather pointed questions levied at her, especially regarding her jab at her and RMS’ former school. I don’t envy her.

Depression

I feel like I’ve written about this before, but I can’t seem to find anything on it. Now is as good a time as ever to write a post about it, because I’m in it.

Hello, I’m Nathan, I’m 36 years old and I live with severe depression. Depression is not an illness people like to talk about. Probably because they either have no real concept of it, or it’s a sticky mess of an illness and can color their perception of you. It’s not fun having, either, but I digress. Depression, for me is a lot like having a judge from one of those talent shows on television inspect everything you’ve done and pointing out just how bad it is. Nothing is good enough, any slight mistake or error is magnified to poster-board size so it can be shown to a jury of your peers.

I never get to let go of things, either. I’ll be driving to work and depression will creep up next to me and replay an embarrassing moment, opening the wound up fresh. It’ll poke it’s head in when seeing happy people just to remind me that I am a loathsome sloth and will never be happy because, to be fair, I don’t really deserve it. The worst one for me is the more generic, rationalization of deficiency. This is where I actually build up a logical and rational argument as to why I really am worthless and terrible and a fraud, and that I deserve to be depressed because that’s the way you should feel when you’re as bad as I am.

This is all exhausting. It gets setup as a feedback loop where I put myself down and, when I got to look for the reason why I’m down, my depression gives me a perfectly formatted list of reasons. You can’t win because you’re setting yourself up in a loosing position before you even start.

I got lucky. My wife gave me an ultimatum: Seek help or we’re out. It wasn’t pretty. It was during lunch, in my office. There were tears and a strong sense of urgency to get that help. Once I did, I started feeling better, but it wasn’t enough to keep me going. I was in a high-stress position at work and while talking is nice, it only goes so far. Eventually I changed positions and my doctor prescribed me medicine. So far, I’m doing okay.

That’s not to say that the battle is won and I’m no longer depressed. The reason why I’m even writing this post is to use it as a form of therapy for my depression. Today was a very stressful day, some of it my own doing, some of it not. Thankfully I have an understanding wife and a solid outlet in which to express myself. I know many do not.

What Was the Point Behind All of This?

People shy away from this topic because mental illness is a serious taboo. The stigma is barely addressed, even when we have mentally ill people shooting up gatherings and making our whole country a more dangerous place. It has to stop. Thankfully there are organizations out there to help and mental health is finally getting some sunlight. People have a wide variety of mental disorders and diseases. All of these, once exposed can lead to becoming ostracized and depression and suicide. People who you think are fun-loving and even mannered may be faking it, I know I did for years. The good news is that you’re not alone, and with issues like depression being so common, there is hope. Keep moving, keep trying to make it better, and keep trying to love yourself.

And don’t stop believin’!

Hate

Whew, it’s been quite a week. I try not to monitor the news too much, I feel like it becomes this negative growth in your brain and with enough exposure, metastasizes more and more of your consciousness. Ultimately overwhelming your ability to care and connect with humanity.

We’ve been seeing some pretty radical hatred in the already contentious run up to the 2020 election (ugh, already?). People are not even rational anymore, they are just frothing at the mouth about some pretty racist stuff. Stuff that doesn’t even affect them. Why do people act this way? Is it some sort of tribalism to get all angry about some other disaffected group and blame them for everything? It seems so selfish and self-defeating.

I know if I had answers for the above, I’d probably be rich, or dead. People often don’t want to fix problems or to understand themselves. They just want to keep on doing what feels comfortable to them at the time.

I am, however, glad to see there is strong support for the other side of this. Acceptance for differences, integration of new ideas, cultures and viewpoints. We don’t all have to agree, but we do have to get along on this planet. It’s getting smaller and it’s just not viable to be so hateful toward people who are just trying to make the best of a bad situation.

Edit: Sigh. Even things that aren’t even political in nature are, apparently, fair game. Mr. Trump. Please drop out of politics and leave the country to people far smarter and more qualified for the position.