His position at the FSF and GNU Project are almost certainly in question, too. Some of these comments are harmful to the open source community as a whole.
It happened. End of an era, folks.
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.
The open web is dying. Corporations are moving, almost silently, across the landscape, tweaking pieces here and there, closing doors and setting up walls. Chief among them is Google. The once proud standard-bearer of openness and standards, now a hunched, twisted reflection of itself. “Don’t be Evil”, it’s one-time motto, now a mocking phrase with a Wikipedia-esque “[Citation Needed]” attached to it.
Google has, by and large, won. The vast majority of browsers run some version of it’s Blink engine. Even that is an almost prophetic echo back to when they forked the WebKit engine from Apple; breaking compatibility. Now they forge forward, ignoring standards, intentionally breaking or slowing competitors down in whatever way is most effective while also giving them sufficient cover.
They publish new formats and standards, like WebM/WebP and SPDY in the name of speed and efficiency, when in reality they’re just looking to push the discourse of the web deeper into their own territory, where they can control more aspects. They offer free tools, like Public DNS to beleaguered Internet users trying to escape out of the, somehow even worse, ISP experience. CDNs to developers and website operators promising faster user access and lower bandwidth bills for the small price of adding further tracking methods to their already frighteningly powerful panopticon of surveillance tools.
People eat it up, too. Free email, office, calendars, contacts, voice chat, search and a whole raft of other services? All I need to do is sign up and agree to let you paw through everything I do? It sounds too good to be true! Tie it all in with your cheap smartphone and ChromeBook, also powered by their tools, and suddenly you’re enjoying the connected life with all of this sweet stuff. All it cost you was your privacy. Haven’t you heard, though? Privacy is dead. Besides, I’ve got nothing to hide…
Emacs is an amazing tool. It’s both a programming language (Elisp) and a functioning text editor. No, it’s not even a text editor, it’s an environment that contains a text editor, crafted out of Elisp. This allows you to extend it in almost any direction. From reading email and news groups to editing photos and viewing PDFs and listening to music.
I’ve spent a lot of time with it, and it’s classical rival, Vim, over the years and both are amazing tools in their own right. Emacs has won me over, though, because it allows me to do more than just edit text. I can craft it how I need it. To that end, I’m now using Emacs for RSS Feed reading (via Elfeed), Listening to music via EMMS (and mpv), Managing my files using Dired, even using it as a terminal emulator via Eshell. I can do most of what I need to do in Emacs.
Emacs even comes with it’s own server. Generally, this is to allow you to load a single instance of Emacs and then connect to it with any number of lighter clients. This offsets some of the longer startup times, which Emacs is, unfortunately, known for. This actually works out well, though, as it keeps buffers (files) and other utilities open, even if I close the frame (window) I’m working in. I can then freely close things and not worry about loosing data.
The next, logical step would be to replace i3 with EXWM, but I’m not entirely ready to make that leap. I still use Firefox and Steam. LibreOffice will be coming in handy when school starts back up and command-line mount tools are not really fun. I’d also like to try and get email, contacts and calendars going. I have Office 365, so that may be an impediment. It’s something to ponder, though.
Edit: If you want to see my configurations, you can visit my Emacs GitLab repository.
Bitwarden is awesome! Why didn’t anyone tell me before? Seriously, this is what 1Password felt like back in the day when they weren’t pushing their cloud-only versions of their tools.
Speaking of 1Password. It’s becoming harder and harder to recommend them due to the fact that getting versions of the tools that work with offline files, instead of their online service is near impossible, and something users had to beg for in the first place. The decision to nail everyone for either a monthly sub fee, or $60 a year for upgraded versions is getting tired.
What prompted me to change to Bitwarden was exactly this. My wife uses an older, but still compatible version of 1Password in her browser and on her computer. An update to the extension broke this and now it seems like the only solution is to buy the latest version, which is $50. Additionally, being a Linux user myself, I was pretty much left out in the cold. I either had to run it through Wine or just use my phone to manually enter the code. Because of that, I was lazy and just let my Firefox Account sync them. Not ideal, since it didn’t sync with anything else.
I do, still, respect them for upping the bar as far as password management goes. They introduced excellent browser plugins and are extremely open about their methods to secure your data. However, it’s been a while since they’ve done much to push the envelope, and the competition has largely caught up.
I had heard about Bitwarden, and was a little skeptical. I love F/OSS software, but the password managers I had used, like
pass and KeePass were great as stand-alone tools, but not exactly… fluid when trying to sync to multiple devices, let alone a family of them. Bitwarden solves that problem and is still open source.
The Bitwarden app for iOS looks and feels very similar to the desktop app which looks and feels similar to the browser plugin, the website, the Android app and so on. This is all amazing because it allows me to deploy this on my families devices and remain consistent. I don’t like that they’re all electron or similar apps, but it’s a small concession I’m willing to live with.
While I’ve opted to use their paid service for now ($10/yr is pretty crazy cheap), I do plan on self-hosting when I get into a more stable network environment (i.e. home). The fact that I can just do that is also pretty freaking awesome.
Passwords and security aren’t sexy. In fact, they’re the thing people think the least about until they have to deal with it (just like backups). Still, the F/OSS password/secret management systems are growing up nicely and provide excellent security, audit-ability and full control over your data, and I couldn’t be happier.