This is Argyn's blog. I comment on topics of my interests such as software, math, finance, and music. Also, I write about local events in Northern Virginia, USA and all things related to Kazakhstan

Tuesday, March 16, 2004


Ok, we've been there. Richard spoke about history of GNU and FSF, "Copyleft", GNU/Linux and modern challenges to software freedom. I think that for the most part I was already familiar with these subjects and speaker's stand on them, but nevertheless it was very interesting to see him live.

I've heard about FSF and copyleft many years ago, when I received a letter inviting to join FSF or something like that. I think it was in 1990-92 period. I remember that I liked the idea of freedom of software, because it was very much in line with my work at that time in science. We used some GNU software, such as GCC, f2c and DJGPP (my favorite C++ compiler for MS-DOS).

This talk gave me a little more of Mr Stallman's personal views on the subject. There were about 30-40 people, I guess, regulars of this Linux group. Students were filming the speech. Mr Stallman was very tired and jet-lagged after a long flight from Vietnam, so the questions part was very short, just 15 minutes. I think that he wasn't at his best yesterday due to the circumstances. It's a pity.

By the way, there wasn't a SINGLE QUESTION ABOUT SCO! :) That's a miracle. He spoke a lot about why it's GNU/Linux not Linux. I've heard this argument before, but yesterday I finally understood why it's really important.

One point I'd like to mention: in the beginning of his speech, Mr Stallman said that he came from Vietnam and that there is no notion of software freedom in that country. It strikes me very much. I thought that the situation there must be similar to what was in USSR. In USSR we had a total "freedom" in sense that software was freely distributed among scientists and programmers.

The flip side of this situation is that we used to say that "in USSR we can sell only one copy of software". After you sell one copy, everyone esle will freely distribute it, and you got no money. I wanted to speak about it with Mr Stallman, but he was too tired at the end and wrapped up the meeting quickly. I'm curious to know what he thinks about. In USSR we, programmers, didn't have any incentives to sell packaged software. The only thing we could do is custom developed software or support. How do free software advocates see this working in USA if free software comes mainstream?

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