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Monday, July 11, 2005

GNU, Stallman and me


Stallman, widely hailed as RMS in the internet world is the founder of GNU (Gnu is Not Unix) project, which aimed at developing GNU system, a complete free operating system. He is the founder of FSF (Free Software Foundation) too. He is a guy who values “Software freedom” more than anyone. He graduated from Harvard with BA Physics and worked in MIT Artificial Intelligence lab as a research staff. Then, he resigned from there to start his Software Freedom Struggle. He is the creator of GNU Emacs, GNU Debugger (gdb), GNU Compiler Collection (GCC) and various other programs for the GNU System. Refer
http://www.stallman.org http://www.gnu.org http://fsf.org to know more about him.

I was doing my 3rd semester during which RMS came to give a lecture about “Free Software” in my college. I wanted to see him. But as usual, I slept. Suddenly by 4 PM, I woke up and started running towards Rajam Hall, alone. A hell of crowd was there hearing the speech of an old, long bearded man. I searched for a seat to sit. Only few ppl were from my college inside the hall. The others were outsiders. Atlast, I found a seat and started listening to his speech more keenly. There stood a guy called MKS senior who came all the way from Singapore to attend his lecture. He played the main role in arranging the lecture and he was standing before the speaker with a tape recorder in hand. I didn’t figure out where Fatso Praveen senior was sitting, that time. But surely he would have present there. Suddenly, some guy started giving some GNU stickers and RMS was saying “stick it in some permanent place. Don’t waste it”. I ran atonce, stood in a queue and somehow got those two useless stickers. But, I had the satisfaction that I got Stallman’s stickers which I bet you, is worth than anything else. The lecture ended after the question and answer session. Finally, I could remember Sriram Senior going near MKS and introducing himself. Still I have the sticker pasted in my Dexter’s Cabinet. Dexter is my damn slow 400 MHZ Celeron system for which I had changed four 40 GB harddisks in the last 3 years of my college! But, still I love my Dexter.

I really liked RMS’s way of life, his principles and thoughts (Surely every GNU Linux lover will). All those things, always, made me to think “Is RMS really a human ?”. Believe me. I really wondered at him. You know, when I was reading about History of GNU in Emacs (an extensible editor. Type C-h C-p in emacs) during 2nd year of my college in Hellkay’s (he loves ppl calling him so) room, I figured out that RMS was in one sided love with a girl called Alix and he named some portion of Hurd kernel so! But, unfortunately that part of Hurd got screwed up and the design was completely changed. I wondered, why does he wants to spoil the life of a girl?! I bet you, no girl can live happily with him. Trust me, what I am saying is practical. Girls may praise Stallman more than the Richie Rich Gates. But when it comes to life, girls will surely prefer to stay along with Gates, which is the safest side. What I mean is, they will ignore RMS. I dreamt about such crap things but wanted to stay by RMS’s side.

It was the second time, RMS came to my college to give a lecture about Software Patents. But this time, I passed out of my college and was working with HCL. Somehow, I managed to get an off day to attend that lecture. But, my good luck, me and Praveen were invited to have a lunch along with RMS at AU-KBC by our CS and IT juniors . Myself and Praveen went there, had lunch along with RMS and some FSF people. Praveen, myself with some juniors stood before RMS and were hearing his golden words. I stood still, trying to keenly understand whatever RMS spoke. RMS enquired about our jobs. When Praveen was explaining about his job, which was based on ATM networks, RMS stopped and wanted him to explain about ATM networks, as he was not familiar with the term ATM!

I gave a top to bottom look at RMS. He had multi-colored hair (mostly black, brown and white) and he was wearing a maroon colored dirty Tshirt with grey colored full trousers (which had a big hole near his thighs!) and some scrap sandals. I wondered that time, “Hey, what the hell is this man ….”. Then, I stood still, gazing at his flute in his pant pocket. After he explained about BSD and GPL licenses, he atonce ran towards Rajam Hall to give his shortest lecture. You know one thing, he tenses like hell, even for small things. When he was done with the lecture, he asked everyone to contribute some useful programs (not money) for free software foundation. Everyone stood up to give him a big applause. But, he told “Sit down, Don’t stand for me. Stand for free software”. Those words must have surely touched the hearts of everyone who were there. One thing was sure in me about him, “He valued money very less than Freedom, software, technology and people”. Later, I even mailed him asking more about him, his work and his thoughts. To my surprise he replied atonce to me. His reply was very brief but it communicated whatever he thought.

But I had something else too in my mind, which I wanted to tell him, but I couldnt. “Stallman, you don’t value money. Thats ok. But it’s not the same for everybody in world (doesn’t mean that I value money more). Your principles and licenses will never fit for a business model. No business person (who values money more) will be ready to adopt free software license for all his products even if you fine-tune it. So, completely eradicating proprietary licenses from this world is not possible as you cant eliminate all the people who are in greed of money. Finally, what I say is “Both must exist”. Free Software paves way for more development of knowledge, technology and freedom in society but proprietary software makes way to earn more money and do some good business satisfying the customers needs. So, in the future, what I believe and what I hope is : Both will exist and both must exist."

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