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The Main Issues with the FSF, Modern Computing, and Why Richard Stallman is a Burden to the Linux Community
To many, Richard Stallman is seen as a hero of the free software movement, and the Free Software Foundation is the only real organization that shows any semblance of caring about free software. However, their rhetoric has shown to be ineffective, vilifying, and anti-freedom, primarily stemming from a flawed interpretation of what freedom in regards to software is.
Stallman is credited with defining the four basic freedoms of software (which I will list off starting at 1, not 0 like he does, which I will get into later), which are the freedoms to run, read and write, copy, and distribute software any way the user sees fit. He defines any piece of software that does not meet all four of these criteria as proprietary and "should not be used". In reality, the only freedom that is necessary is the ability to read the full source code of a program, as all other aspects stem from that single fact; the source code can be changed to the user's will and compiled and ran for their uses, and the source code and compiled binaries can be shared with others. Only if the complete source code of a program is not publicly available is it proprietary.
So why are many programs that have their source code publicly available still classified as "non-free" by Stallman and/or the FSF? The issue lies in the licensing terms of these programs; a program may be open-source, but its license only permits the user to use the source code in the terms defined by the owner. In reality, these glorified walls of text mean absolutely nothing; as long as the source code is publicly available, the user can do whatever they want to with it, licenses and strings-attached be damned. It's the software equivalent of a zookeeper giving an orangutan a banana, but telling the orangutan he can only use the banana for consumption purposes and may not use the banana to engage in any acts that may be harmful to other orangutans, the zookeepers, the zoo's patrons, or the zoo itself. Likewise, upon consumption of the banana the peel must be immediately discarded in the correct location, etc., and so on and so forth. It all boils down to this: that orangutan does not give a single fuck about what he can and can't do with the banana; the zookeeper gave it to him and there's not a damn thing he can do to get it back. If he wants to smudge that banana on the glass and wipe his ass with the peel in front of the zoo's board of directors, he's going to do it no matter how many lawsuits you threaten that orangutan with. The amount of money you'd be able to squeeze out of that monkey won't even cover the court costs. In short, users should not be afraid of having their doors kicked in by the alphabet boys for not using software exactly as the license permits, and should ignore the FSF's fearmongering over using what they define as non-free software.
The next issue arises in regards to the list of FSF-approved software and operating systems. The FSF maintains a list of what they call "truly free" software which meets their standards. Nowhere on this list will you find common Linux-based distributions such as Ubuntu or Debian, but instead an incredibly small list of distributions you’ve probably never heard of, with names such as Dragora, Trisquel, Ututo, and Replicant. However, should you try out one of these distros for yourself, you will find that they are incredibly barebones, have a small set of basic system utilities, and few (if any) programs installed or available in its repositories that would actually be useful for day-to-day tasks (and this is all assuming you're able to even install the distro at all; more often than not, it will throw some obscure error during the installation process that will cause a kernel panic and throw you back to square one, do not pass go or collect $200). Should you add any non-kosher repository to this distribution, you've essentially voided your FSF good boy points and the system has been tainted by "non-free" software. Attempting to actually install useful pieces of software will result in several missing dependencies that aren't included because, once again, you've been trapped by the FSF's definition of what is and isn't free, and at this point you're better off just starting from scratch and installing an actually useful Linux-based distribution.
The FSF sanctions distributions that are of no use for daily tasks, locks them into an environment where it is difficult if not impossible to install actually useful software, then chastises them for returning to Windows when they don't want to spend several days configuring something that may or may not work how they would like it in the end. What's the purpose of "free software" when it doesn't even work? The FSF is always talking about the latest spyware implementation in Windows 10 or macOS and cry about how user freedom is eroding, but provides no meaningful alternatives to the loss of freedom. They're all bark and no bite, and have delivered nothing of value to the end user except contempt, frustration, and broken packages.
One argument I am always able to use against FSF advocates with 100% success is the Grandma argument, and I encourage all of you to use it as well. The premise is simple: pretend that you are your grandmother, and the other person has to convince you to switch away from Windows or macOS to a Linux-based distribution. Typically, your average grandmother is in her late 70s and has little (if any) knowledge of what a computer is or how it works (beyond pressing a few buttons to make Facebook come up on the picture box), compounded by the mental inability to learn something new and the potential presence of Alzheimer's or dementia. They'll try to explain to you the idea of software freedom, how Microsoft and Apple spy on their users, and how installing a "free as in freedom" operating system will let them take back their privacy. By the time you're done explaining, they're still trying to figure out what a Linux is and think that there's a literal backdoor somewhere on the computer box. Nobody besides their own grandchildren are going to have the knowledge nor patience to convince them to switch to Linux, because there is absolutely no way they'll be able to do it themselves.
I have been working in the consumer PC industry for several years, and one thing I was able to grasp very quickly that the FSF has not is this: your average user has no idea how to use a computer. This simple fact explains everything in modern computing: why Windows 10 and macOS have a Fisher-Price user interface, why modern laptops are made of cheap plastic and frail components, why big companies are able to apply boot-to-face with no repercussions: they've created a system where the user is simultaneously dependent upon and abused by major corporations, and are unable to stand up for themselves. They are coddled by easy-to-use software and cloud storage, then punched in the face by software licensing fees and having their personal documents deleted for violating the Terms of Service. But they won't seek out any alternatives because there are none (no viable ones, that is). It is simply asking too much of the population to possess the basic knowledge of even installing an operating system, Windows included (buy any new PC and it's already installed for you, just give them your name, tick a few checkboxes and you're done). Linus Torvalds states the main reason why most users don't use Linux is because it's not preinstalled on new PCs, a chicken-and-egg problem: nobody uses Linux because it's not preinstalled on new PCs, and it's not preinstalled on new PCs because nobody uses Linux. The FSF is doing nothing to alleviate this issue by providing the user with the software equivalent of a soup kitchen meal when they could get a Porterhouse steak for free* instead.
Although Richard Stallman is no longer the head of the FSF (after stepping down last year over leaked emails in regards to the Jeffrey Epstein debacle), his influence is still prominent in the free software community, largely for the worst. If you're still curious as to why there hasn't been a free software renaissance, look no further than an overweight, far-left socialist that enjoys creating pointless arguments over made-up terms while chowing down on some foot-de-la-creme. Stallman is widely seen as the head of the free software movement and its de facto leader (some would argue for Linus Torvalds, but he's more of a passive member of the community that approves a few commits to the kernel every now and then rather than an active campaigner for software freedom), and you would be hard-pressed to find someone that could be a worse figurehead. When people think of Microsoft and Apple, they'll always come back to Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, two businessmen that, as controversial as they are in what they themselves actually achieved, were still able to create the consumer PC industry as it is today. Compared with Stallman, an overweight, long-bearded hippie that seems to do little more than argue over names all day, it's obvious why Linux hasn't (and may never) hit the mainstream market. This may seem like a low-ball attack, but it is simply human nature to judge everything at face value. If you were to show them a picture of the man behind free software, they're going to recoil in disgust and permanently associate Linux with "literal basement-dwelling manchild that's never seen a razor a day in his life".