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      The large section focusing on someone dressing up as an actual devil was… a bit weird.

      I guess this /is/ pretty classic Stallman though.

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        Yea that reminded me of Scruff McGruff the crime dog and Smokey the Bear when I was a kid. It might appeal.. to kids (but even that is highly questionable), but I would suspect adults would find it anywhere from insulting to boring to offtopic.

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      This is a surprisingly pragmatic stance from Stallman. Reading the title, I’d expect him to advocate for tarring and feathering users who wanted to install no free drivers.

      Instead, the install fest proprietors use it as a preaching/teaching moment and educate people on why an entirely free stack might be better/more desirable.

      Could he be mellowing with age? :)

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      I used to run the UCLA LUG’s installfest back in the late ‘00’s. Aside from my role organizing the event, I would solve all of the weird hardware that didn’t work after the bulk install, which was nearly always proprietary hardware. (To this day, I bear grudges against Broadcom and Sony for their wireless adapters and laptops, respectively). I’d explain that I’d be able to get their hardware working for now, but because of those hardware vendors’ attitudes towards Linux, it would probably break the next time they upgraded Linux, so when they replaced their laptop, they should look for one with an Intel or Atheros network card, etc.

      I have no idea how many people continued using Linux after the installfest; most people needed it for their university coursework. However, the dozen or so people who came back with a cheap PC (out of ~100 or so people who had weird hardware that didn’t work) suggests that the strategy worked at least a little.

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      I’ve never met Stallman, but from my outsiders perspective, he is running a charismatic religious cult, with himself as the cult leader. If this kind of meetup was my first introduction to free software, I would have turned around, headed out the door, and installed Windows. Fortunately for me, I was introduced to free software by pragmatic BSD people (i.e., not the ones who rant about the evils of the GPL). Although I’ve tried OpenBSD, FreeBSD, and Red Hat, I finally ended up at Ubuntu Linux. I’m very happy with the FOSS ecosystem, and although I now have a preference for free software, I don’t care if the licence is BSD or GPL, and I still don’t want to be a member of any cult.

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        Yup his extreme views can be a bit much, but, on the other hand, were it not for him and his extreme / preachy nature, we wouldn’t have the entire Gnu suite that powers Linux and many other important FOSS projects.

        When rms started this crusade, open source wasn’t a thing, and computing was going 100% proprietary.

        At that time, the BSDs were mired in the AT&T/Bell labs/SCO “UNIX” wars. Things looked grim.

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        I prefer to think of it as some sort of StarWars-esque light-side-vs-dark-side thing, rather than a religious thing. Or perhaps that old black-magic-vs-white-magic trope.

        If a wizard tells his acolytes that they must never use dark magic (or force), is she a cult leader? Or simply the good guy in the story?

        It makes sense that the uninitiated might see the strength of Stallman’s opposition to proprietary software as obsessive or maniacal.

        Aren’t computers pretty magical though?

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      I’m not quite sure I agree with the philosophy that users must experience pain before pleasure, if the primary goal is dissemination of free software. The two most popular operating systems in the world go through great lengths to try to (arguably) make things easier for users, since it seems most people just want things to “just work.” Stallman’s strategy here may win over some folks, but I have a hard time believing that most folks would be convinced. Perhaps a better strategy is to be a better solution, regardless of whether users are dragged through the very uncomfortable experience of having a system with no working wifi, graphics, etc because of binary blobs. If someone stumbles in with a system that would work with 100% free software, why chase them with a human in a devil costume to teach a lesson?

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        If someone comes in with a system that works fine with 100% free software, they won’t have to visit the devil. The devil is just a specially designated member of the install-fest team who will knowingly violate free software principles for you for pragmatic reasons.

        Stallman suggesting the prop is simply a way for him to acknowledge the necessity of nonfree drivers without normalizing or approving of their use.

        The prop may be memorable enough to sew a seed in the users’ minds: “buy devil-free hardware next time…”

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          “buy devil-free hardware next time…”

          Well I hope the devil at least teaches them how to do that, because ‘buying devil-free hardware’ is not exactly straight forward/obvious to a great many people.

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            Ok, yes. So, let’s separate the why from the how. This devil scheme is intended to teach the why, but not the how.

            To all you install fest organizers out there, please remind your devil, should you choose to designate one, that she should point people at the FSF’s RYF hardware page.

            Nobody said this will be easy!

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      Those users that get nonfree drivers would see what their moral cost is, and that there are people in the community who refuse to pay that cost. They would have the chance to reflect afterwards on the situation that their flawed computers have put them in, and about how to change that situation, in the small and in the large.

      I think this will have the opposite effect to what Stallman intends. It is very important to people that their computers work. They might look at those people who went to the devil, obtained a functioning computer and decide that free software is not worth it.

      However, I think if you show them the advantages of the freedom that free software provides ( customization options, ability to automate their boring chores, ability to revive their old computers etc ), they might show increased interest in free software which could prove to be more fruitful in the long run.

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        I also think it’s unlikely to have the desired effect. Aside from the general weirdness of someone wearing a sign/in costume, they’re going to see that the group norm is to defect from FSF’s ideals for basic functionality, then get fun practice explicitly doing so. (Unless my intuition about what percent of people want wifi working on their laptop is way, way off.)

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          I’ve attended an install fest in Conway, Arkansas in 2003 with 12 people in attendance and one in Boston two or three years ago was large enough to warrant its own room at a conference.

          In both cases, almost all the attendees 1) had already drank the (delicious) free software kool-aide and 2) were probably a little weird themselves. 3) The hosts of said events are invariable charismatic–that is, perceptive, smiling, and outgoing.

          Whimsy and kooky don’t sound right when described in English prose or when seen on video, but live and in person these things are fine. “You had to have been there.”

          Stallman should simply patch his article to leave out the specifics and better describe the goal of the piece: to tell the world that RMS has decided that giving users experience with GNU on working machines through use of non-free drivers is more desirable than giving them experience with GNU on non-working machines through use of fully free software stacks, though the FSF will publicly deny it if anyone asks. (see that bit about no devils at FSF events.)