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  1. 'Its life doesn't have to end!' More than 10 years on from its campaign to persuade users to dump Windows 7 for a non-proprietary alternative, the Free Software Foundation (FSF) has kicked off a petition to urge Microsoft to open-source the recently snuffed software. On the face of it, the logic seems pretty simple. On 14 January Windows 7 reached its end of life as Microsoft turned off the free security update taps with a final fix (which seemed to bork desktop wallpapers for some users). "Its life doesn't have to end," cried the foundation. "We call on Microsoft to upcycle it instead." Unfortunately, the FSF couldn't resist a final dig, saying the killing of the OS had brought to an end "its updates as well as its 10 years of poisoning education, invading privacy, and threatening user security." Hey team, way to go on persuading the Redmond gang to do you a solid. Suggesting such a release would go some way to "undo past wrongs" may not be a persuasive argument for the Seattle suits, who probably saw Windows 7 as way of undoing the heinous deeds of Vista. There is a precedent. Ancient MS-DOS and Word code has been opened up, and the Calculator app found in the current Windows 10 now lurks on GitHub. But an entire, relatively recent OS? We can see some problems, not least the licensed components lurking in Windows 7 that would need to be either excised or open-sourced as well. Then there are the bits and pieces that the company would consider valuable secrets (large chunks of Windows 7 linger on in Windows 10 after all.) And then there is the fact that Windows 7 is not actually unsupported. Three more years of updates are available for those who can pay. And with Windows (as well those parts of it licensed to third parties) still accounting for a sizeable chunk of Microsoft's revenues, we can imagine a very functional and highly compatible free version is not really in the company's best fiscal interests. And let's be honest, who knows what might be lurking in that code. "Take that, Penguin fsckers!" anyone? It was a different time. The Register contacted Microsoft on the off-chance that Windows 7 might be showing up on GitHub at some point soon, but we were told that the company doesn't comment on rumours and speculation. The Win 7 request from FSF is neither rumour nor speculation. In any event, if open source is your thing, there are plenty of Linux distributions in a far better state of usefulness than what was around when Windows 7 first launched. And if there is that Windows app you just can't do without, the popular compatibility layer Wine received a bump to version 5 this week, replete with over 7,400 tweaks to allow you to inflict more Windows apps on your Penguin-tinged OS. Still, never say never. If you told us 10 years ago that Microsoft would be about to ship a version of Windows containing the Linux kernel we might have sprayed precious beer from our nostrils. So who knows what else might be coming down the line? Source
  2. Richard Stallman returns to the Free Software Foundation after resigning in 2019 Open-source software advocate Richard Stallman is rejoining the board of the Free Software Foundation. Stallman founded the FSF in 1985 and acted as its president until 2019, when he resigned after making widely criticized statements about convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Stallman announced the news during a live stream for the FSF project LibrePlanet. “Some of you will be happy at this, and some might be disappointed, but who knows?” he said. “In any case, that’s how it is, and I’m not planning to resign a second time.” He also mentioned that the announcement was meant to be made with a more formal video, but that “it didn’t get finished.” Stallman resigned from the FSF, as well as a position at MIT, after participating in an email conversation about MIT’s leadership and its ties with Jeffrey Epstein. Stallman defended MIT professor Marvin Minsky, who allegedly had sex with one of Epstein’s trafficking victims — saying “the most plausible scenario” was that Minsky had been unaware the woman was being coerced and she would have “presented herself to him as entirely willing.” The exchange was posted online, sparking calls for him to step down. Stallman denied defending Epstein, saying he wished he “could’ve prevented the misunderstanding.” But for some critics the problems went beyond that exchange, covering other statements and actions he’d made over his years in the open-source software community, where critics said he’d created a hostile environment for women. MIT graduate Selam Jie Gano, who posted the original emails on Medium, called the Epstein statements “almost irrelevant” to the larger issue. “This was about real life actions, not only online words,” wrote Gano in an update today. Even after his resignations, Stallman remained in charge of the GNU Project, which develops and advocates for free and open-source software and operating systems. As referenced in the famous “I’d just like to interject” copypasta (which is based on a blog post by Stallman), the GNU utilities have been instrumental in the history of Linux, and the FSF has a similar function, acting as a nonprofit to advocate for free and open software. It publishes the GNU General Public License, under which many open-source projects are published. After being away from its leadership team for over a year, Stallman has returned to help run the FSF. The FSF wasn’t immediately available to provide comment on Stallman’s return or what role he will play on the board of directors. Source: Richard Stallman returns to the Free Software Foundation after resigning in 2019
  3. Red Hat withdraws from the Free Software Foundation after Stallman’s return Corporate sponsors and board members alike are retreating from RMS-gate. Enlarge / The Free Software Foundation might be happy to have RMS back on its board, but much of the Free Software world feels otherwise. Last week, Richard M. Stallman—father of the GNU Public License that underpins Linux and a significant part of the user-facing software that initially accompanied the Linux kernel—returned to the board of the Free Software Foundation after a two-year hiatus due to his own highly controversial remarks about his perception of Jeffrey Epstein's victims as "[appearing to be] entirely willing." As a result of RMS' reinstatement, Red Hat—the Raleigh, North Carolina-based open source software giant that produces Red Hat Enterprise Linux—has publicly withdrawn funding and support from the Free Software Foundation: Red Hat was appalled to learn that [Stallman] had rejoined the FSF board of directors. As a result, we are immediately suspending all Red Hat funding of the FSF and any FSF-hosted events. Red Hat's relatively brief statement goes on to acknowledge an FSF statement on board governance that appeared on the same day: We will adopt a transparent, formal process for identifying candidates and appointing new board members who are wise, capable, and committed to the FSF's mission. We will establish ways for our supporters to contribute to the discussion. We will require all existing board members to go through this process as soon as possible, in stages, to decide which of them remain on the board. We will add a staff representative to the board of directors. The FSF staff will elect that person. The directors will consult with legal counsel about changes to the organization's by-laws to implement these changes. We have set ourselves a deadline of thirty days for making these changes. But Red Hat says the statement gives it "no reason to believe that [the statement] signals any meaningful commitment to positive change." This sentiment seems to be widely shared by many, including at least one FSF board member—Kat Walsh—who opposed RMS' reinstatement and resigned her board position on the same day as the board's statement and Red Hat's withdrawal. Immediately following Walsh's resignation, the FSF announced the creation of a new board seat, to be filled with someone from FSF union staff; on Sunday, it filled this new seat with senior system administrator Ian Kelling. FSF President Geoffrey Knauth describes the new seat: The board and voting members look forward to having the participation of the staff via this designated seat in our future deliberations. This is an important step in the FSF's effort to recognize and support new leadership, to connect that leadership to the community, to improve transparency and accountability, and to build trust. There is still considerable work to be done, and that work will continue. Knauth, who began serving in his current role as FSF president in August 2020, declared that it's only a temporary gig: I commit myself to resign as an FSF officer, director, and voting member as soon as there is a clear path for new leadership assuring continuity of the FSF’s mission and compliance with fiduciary requirements. The elephant in the room that the FSF's remaining board members seem determined to ignore is the continued presence of Stallman himself—who, along with the rest of the FSF board, will soon need to undergo its new "transparent, formal process for identifying [members] who are wise, capable, and committed to the FSF's mission." Why Stallman? It's probably worth re-examining the FSF's stated mission to understand its choice to reinstate Stallman, who has been widely panned as far too controversial to make an effective software evangelist. The Free Software Foundation is working to secure freedom for computer users by promoting the development and use of free (as in freedom) software and documentation—particularly the GNU operating system—and by campaigning against threats to computer user freedom like Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) and software patents. Although this statement leads with "promoting development and use of [free software]," it immediately veers off into the Stallman-esque weeds with an implicit declaration that the GNU toolkit is an entire "operating system." From there, it moves into "campaigning against" perceived enemies of software freedom rather than campaigning for that freedom itself. The next section, "Our Core Work," moves on from promotion entirely, which we'll summarize here with one bullet point per paragraph: The FSF maintains historic articles The FSF sponsors the GNU software project The FSF holds copyright on large amounts of code The FSF publishes the GNU General Public License The FSF campaigns for free software adoption, and against proprietary software We suspect that closely examining the FSF's own mission statements—as opposed to simply assuming its mission—answers many of the questions about RMS' return. The FSF describes itself as an organization far more concerned with maintaining a part of history it holds dear—and attacking its perceived enemies, whether real or not—than with discovery, outreach, and mentorship to new faces in free software. Red Hat withdraws from the Free Software Foundation after Stallman’s return
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