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Free != Gratis

written by Robin Schubert on 2017-07-12 | Tags: dgplug-summertraining, free-software

Having a class on history of the hacker culture in the dgplug IRC channel has been highly interesting. Only within moments after starting the journey in 1955/56 at the MIT TX-0 computer, my Wikipedia tabs popped up almost by themselves, going from TX-0 to Hacker to Hacker Culture to Tech Model Railroad Club and Richard Stallman. By the end of the day I ended up installing FreeBSD and Plan9 on virtual machines on my laptop and began to explore those (what a weird thing, this Plan9, but interesting and consistent in concept)

Obviously, Richard Stallman had a great influence on hacker culture, the free software movement and actually on the working environment that I use right now and every day. After watching some talks and interviews, I realized that this guy really has the 100% freedom in mind (which ironically seems to be quite constraining in some way), avoiding any proprietary software, but also boycotting a whole bunch of other services, tools, hardware and whatsoever if they violate against his philosophy.

Although I was a bit overwhelmed by the strict policy, I liked some of that thoughts initially. Like how he declares minified JavaScript to be proprietary software, because the code is not readable and you would need quite some reverse engineering to make any sense of it. I also like his four essential freedoms (freedom 0, 1, 2 and 3) that finally helped me to understand that free software does not necessarily mean gratis software, but software that also respects my freedom in letting me modify and share it.

So I was interested in the OS and tools that are actually approved by Richard Stallman and found a good list here. I don't remember how often I checked that box saying "install non-free packages" on my OS installations, without thinking twice. I will do now, and I think I might try out Parabola GNU/Linux and stay free, by avoiding proprietary software as good as possible. Judging from the post on stallman.org, not even he can manage to get the 100% he aims for; sometimes a trade-off is necessary until a better solution is found or created.

So I start to search for it and/or to create now.

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