Below you will find a rough transcription taken during the keynote address at LibrePlanet 2013: Commit Change. It includes RMS's remarks, as well as an incomplete transcription of remarks from the recipients of the Free Software Awards. THIS IS NOT A COMPLETE TRANSCRIPT!
We've been at this for a long time. Now we're facing even harder challenges and threats than in the past. For a long time, pc arch was stable, and for a long time, ms-dos made it so much couldn't change. When it got perverted in the 90's, still the things we couldn't handle were limited to fringes. We started seeing peripherals with proprietary drivers due to c-crypt.
Then the BIOS suddenly became something that could be replaced. It wasn't just a piece of circuit we could ignore. We had to start developing Free BIOS' like Coreboot.
Things got even worse around 10 years ago. Manufacturers started to refuse to tell us what we needed to know to make Coreboot run on our machines. This Had to do with Digital restrictions management.
Then it got worse.
Intel and AMD processors require micro-code blobs, so we discovered blobs. It might has well have been a circuit before. But then it changed to software installed, which we do have to care about.
In the PC world, most things, the problems were at the edges. Now with mobile computing, disaster is spreading everywhere, like the dam broke. There is nothing comparable.
What we find now, is that they are building systems on a chip, and the company that makes chip, doesn't have control of what is on chip, it licenses parts from different places.
How do we pressure the company that makes the computer, to get it to pressure the chip producers, to pressure the company that designs the piece of that chip, to make it work for Freedom? Or we do reverse engineering, which is probably what it comes down to.
I tell universities to teach reverse engineering, and have them do it for some important peripherals.
In addition, we see the disaster, we see a lot of tyrannical devices designed so users can't replace them. Some android devices, some apple, and others. This "Tivo-ization", was the first time we noticed. Hardware stopping users from running Free software. This led me to realize we had to change the GPL so that Freedom 1 was practical Freedom, and not just some fantasy.
We see nasty things happening in initialization software, like M$ restricted boot.
There is a similar problem in the RaspberryPi, and the only way to make it work is with a blob. It is even worse than that, it can't even boot without the blob. There are other such boards that don't have that problem. We need to inform the public about this choice.
Lots of people are focused on Rpi, so I asked someone to make a list of products [like RaspberryPi] that respect Freedom more.
None of those things can do the job that this does. We need to have laptops and servers that you can run. The Northbridge now requires a blob... people who saw his was the case, it didn't occur to them that this was a disaster.
Our reverse engineering task list is growing, and we don't find many people who want to do this work. If you want to make a tech contribution to our Freedom, this is where we need you most. Please learn reverse engineering for the specs of peripherals, and help develop Free replacements, so we can use circuits without being under control.
I just got info about new mobile operating systems, like Firefox OS, which like android, uses non-Free software to talk to peripherals. It is not helping us, and won't enable us to get any closer to Freedom than we were without it. I'm afraid no such project will help us on that, they are not interested in addressing the hard problem of Freedom, they want success, and want to be popular, so they don' tackle the place where Freedom is being defeated, and replace the layers that we don't need to replace... they are not helping to reach the goal of Freedom.
I've found that the Chromebook is no better than anything else, but we still don't know about the ARM. It looks like, we are going to have to do something, to bring about the existence the computer you can run with a Free operating system. We could use all in the past, then some, and now and in the future, we're going to have to build and sell computers. We're going to have to raise money, and get into the habit of buying computers that were designed for Free software, instead of the old "liberate other user's computers." It used to be great to say 'bring your comp in, and we'll Free it.'
It is going to be a constant struggle to do that in the future. We can't put all of our eggs in that basket, we've got to push on the reverse engineering also. Once you can do it, teach others to do the same. We must do both efforts in parallel, and maybe one will be a success.
There are some Free software developers who seem to have a hunger to get their software into the apple 'crap' store. It doesn't allow Free software of course, apple won't approve unless it is non-Free. They feel the temptation to build a non-Free executable to run on the 'iThings.' It is better to say 'jail break your iThing, and then install the Free executable.'
If you are going to use an iThing, at least get out of the jail.
People are being tempted to fail to uphold the cause of Freedom, just to get more people to run their code. I think this is a poor choice of values.
What is more important, Freedom or being more popular?
We see people who want to have their Free program in the Apps store, but then they make another mistake, they think they should remove the Copyleft, which isn't necessary, since they can make executables. They don't need to change the license on the source. This is still a mistake, but a smaller mistake than changing their license on source code to a lax permissive license.
It's not just letting something through the wall, but taking the wall down entirely.
They will still use a Free software license, but abandon their attempts to take away Freedom. If you must cater to the crap store, you can release an executable without changing the license on the source-code. Better yet, release under GPL the executable, and jailbreak. The more things that require jailbreaks, the more incentive to install, and the bigger the fight will be against what Apple is doing. Remember the App store is really censorship, carried out for apple's biz interests. For society to make App store publication the standard, this is endorsing one company to make censorship a standard.
To convince people to stop using Copyleft is the most ironic horrible thing you can do in this area. I'll likely publish an article with more info later.
There recently started a campaign to amend the DMCA to permit unlocking any device. The campaign is called 'fix the DMCA', we have to take issue with this because it is not enough to fix it. The anti-circumvention provisions must be abolished. The digital handcuffs are nasty, and there should be no restriction on devices or using them to break handcuffs. That is not even enough. DRM should be illegal.
Yes, that proposed change would be a step forward, but if we are going to endorse it, we have to be careful to repeat "this is not enough, just part of it". There is momentum in a campaign, and the people saying "help us" and you say "I should boost the campaign, and take the small change" instead of keeping pressure for the big change. Every time we say we're in favor, we need to say "but... we need more!"
Now, I should mention a bit more about portable phones. Nowadays, there will be 2 computers [in a portable phone], a signal processor, where the program runs to handle radio communication with phone network, and the main computer to do most other things. If the software that controls the signal processor were fixed, we could consider it part of the circuitry, and ignore it. But it can be changed, without user's consent, remotely, back-door through phone network. That software can take control of the other machine, like sharing access to all the memory. The phone network can say 'overwrite the software in the main computer' You can install Replicant, but that doesn't give you control over your computing you can trust, it can be replaced anytime with something malicious.
We need to get a phone design such that the signal processor cannot control the main computer. This was the case with OpenMoko. The signal processor couldn't do anything to the main computer.
Or we need software in the signal processor. There is for one job, the voice protocol, GSM. There is a different protocol for data, which means starting completely from scratch. Now if we had a completely Free software cell phone, or one where the signal processor didn't have a chance to be malicious, would that make it a good thing to use? There is no way for the phone to talk with the phone network, without networks knowing where the phone is.
This is Stalin's dream, and I won't own one.
If you had a parabolic antenna, then maybe you could point that at one particular tower, and maybe that would be the only tower that would get signal from you. Then you couldn't be triangulated. I don't know if this works in practice. There is no perfect directional antenna. Size makes a practical difference too. *laughter* It would be interesting to have someone try this out, someone who knows about antennas, and give it a try, or calculate what would happen.
There are services that you can ask to tell you where you are. You can use this to find out if you can make a difference in practice. They'd still know you're in a particular city, but that is a lot less than knowing what block you are on.
Now it is time for the awards. First the award for contribution to Free software. This goes to a project, which is an interactive programming environment in Python, called IPython, to Fernando Perez. I want to say one thing: if you write a substantial program in python, app or package, please release under the GPL. It is extremely important to do this.
Thank you everyone, I'll be breif. I want to thank the FSF for the work you all have done to enable the stuff we do today, despite the threats we face today. When I worked on IPython, it wasn't clear it would be valuable, but that it would be a blackhole for time. *laughter* Those close to us, like my wife, pay the highest price, so I want to thank her for that. It is the project of a community, Brian Granger(sp), and Berkeley contributer [name lost].
People in the scientific python community, I spend time with scientists who are interested in software, Eric Jones helped in the beginning, and I want to thank him. Also thank you GVR, who created python. And finally UC Berkeley, who allows me to do work that straddles academic science.
We have some support form the Sloan foundation now thankfully. IPython started it's life as a shell, and has grown into a tool. It is not just a scientific project, code is everywhere, and this is about interaction. IPython is language agnostic by-and-large, but we want to appeal to other languages soon.
This award is dedicated to author of Matplotlib author, John Hunter. He was like a brother, and we worked for 10 years together. This is for him. *applause*
The award for using Free software, or the spirit of Free software to make a better world, the social world, is OpenMRS. *applause*
Thank you for this very important reward, nd recognition that have made MRS a success. Big thanks to RMS, the committee, and FSF.
MRS came together to solve a problem in healthcare for developing countries, providing access to health info, and make access and key issue. It was key to the project, people needed access to data, supply management, and X-rays. Free software was part of it from the beginning. The best way to empower people, particularly in developing countries, for their needs, is to use Free Software. We trained 30 programmers in Rwanda, and they can now implement themselves and have made a hospital using the software. For nearly a decade we've been doing this. Thank you Bill Tierney, and many other colleagues. Ben Wilk, key devs. Many of the programmers in Uganda, and around the world. Rockefeller foundation, and others.
US CDC, and the WHO. We've had strategic partners in Rwanda, and Kenya, and Haiti. I'd like to thank the FSF, I had an office next to Richard in the 90's.
Free Software has 50 countries using our system.
I made the suggestion that if they changed the name to LibreMRS, they'd do better.
I want to thank everyone for being here, we start at 9am, and breffest at 8:15. We'll see you in the morning.