Software stuff I forgot about

I’m hoping someone can help me here. I read a couple of stories this week and can’t find them anymore. They’re fairly significant.
Evil Adobe software. The first involved an Adobe lawsuit. Some outfit was buying Adobe suites, breaking them up, and reselling the components. Adobe sued, saying this violated the click-through license. The court ruled that the reseller never agreed to the click-through license, this constituted a sale even though Adobe defined it as a license, and the vendor wasn’t violating any copyright laws by selling the software CDs and books just like stores that sell used books and music don’t violate the copyrights. The court also questioned whether a click-through license was legally binding anyway.

This story should be very significant. The way around it, of course, is to rent software, which is more profitable anyway. Expect Adobe to make tracks down that path very quickly. Adobe’s software licenses are generally slightly more generous than Microsoft’s (they allow you to install their products on your home PC if your business buys them, something Microsoft no longer allows) but then again Adobe’s the company responsible for jailing Dmitry Sklyarov, so they’re still evil. Maybe not quite as evil as Microsoft, but still evil.

So if you must buy Adobe software, do it smart. Buy the suites–which generally combine three or more Adobe products and generally sell for what two products would sell for seperately–and split them up. Find a friend or coworker to go halvesies with you.

Evil viruses. I’ve been fearing for a couple of months the virus that takes the methods used by Nimda and combines them with oldschool exploits like infecting file shares and e-mailing people in your address book. Such a beast appeared last week, but the stories faded very quickly. Presumably the virus was discovered but never really made it into the wild. The stories I read suggested the virus code was very buggy.

Still, if you’re still reeling from Nimda like I am, take steps to secure your network. Put an antivirus package on your mailserver. Consider blocking access at the DNS level to your local ISPs’ mailservers and free mail providers such as Hotmail to keep users from bringing unchecked mail into your network. Deploy IE 5.5SP2 with all of the current patches. Put Outlook in the Restricted Sites zone and very seriously consider replacing Outlook with something that works right and is secure, such as the Lotus Notes and Domino tag-team. (Exchange always was a Domino wannabe anyway, and not a very good one.) And since keeping your Microsoft software up to date is a royal pain, tell your boss to start thinking about remote deployment software such as Tivoli. Yes, it’s expensive, but it’s cheaper and easier than hiring another one of you and it frees you up to do real work. (My company’s been looking for another one of me for about three years, first so they could afford to get rid of me because I’m not a Microsoft lackey, and now so they can promote me. They’ve never succeeded. Presumably your company would have an equally difficult time finding another one of you.)

Linux in the enterprise. The ultimate solution to this virus crap (and other Windows-related crap) is to get rid of Windows and replace it with Linux, since Linux viruses are extremely rare and almost never damaging. While Linux has security vulnerabilities too, they’re generally more rare than Windows vulnerabilities and a desktop PC often won’t be running the programs that can be exploited. Besides, you are firewalled, aren’t you? If you are, you’re pretty reasonably secure, since in the Unix world, operating systems are operating systems–they don’t try to be operating systems and web browsers and mail clients and everything else.

But what about usability and maintainability? Linux plus KDE is no harder for an end-user to use than a PC or a Mac. Corel WordPerfect Office gives you everything you need to run your business, and secretaries like WordPerfect better than Microsloth Word anyway. Oh, you need Outlook, you say? Fine. Wait a month then. Ximian Evolution is approaching version 1.0, which will bring Outlook functionality to the Linux desktop. And if you don’t want to pay for WordPerfect Office, there’s always StarOffice. (But you can easily afford WP Office with the money you save by not buying Windows licenses anymore.)

So you don’t know anything about fixing Linux if it goes bad? So what? No sane person fixes a Windows installation either. Fixing a troublesome Windows box can easily take half a day, so the best practice is to keep an image of a working configuration, then when the user breaks it, back up user data (usually scattered all over the drive), re-image, then restore the data and be back up and running in an hour. Linux restricts user data to the /home hierarchy, so maintaining an army of Linux boxes is actually considerably easier than maintaining an army of NT boxes. Back up /home and re-image. Or if you’re really smart, you already redirected /home to a server somewhere, in which case all your desktops are now interchangeable. And Linux imaging is much easier than in NT. Linux generally doesn’t care about the motherboard, so if your video, sound, and network cards are identical, your disk images are interchangeable. Often you can get away with changing sound cards too. And if you’re limited to two or three types of NICs (probably Intel EtherExpress Pro and 3Com 90x; most cheapie 10/100 cards are covered by the Realtek 8139, DEC Tulip or NatSemi drivers), you can just statically compile those into the kernel and you’re set–then the video card is all you have to worry about. Running XConfigurator can take care of that in a matter of minutes. So a dead Linux box can be wiped and restored in 30 minutes, easy, during which your user can still be working, either on a vacationing neighbor’s PC or on your PC.

Remember too that a good percentage of NT problems are caused by toy programs users download off the ‘Net, or games or other programs people bring in from home and install. Those toys generally aren’t available for Linux, and since Linux has a low penetration in the home, people aren’t going to be bringing in their Barbie CDs and installing them. So you’re a fool not to think about Linux on the desktop in the enterprise.

Outta here. I’ve got more but I’m pretty much out of time. We’re doing a prayer vigil this weekend, and no fool signed up to lead from 1:00-2:00. When I stay up that late, my mind tends to be at its best, though my emotions tend to be at their worst (I get depressed easily). But since I can be plenty lucid at that hour, this fool signed up to lead. I’ll be back with more tomorrow.

I’m posting this from Linux because Windows lost my last post

I wrote up a post in advance, then against my better judgment I sent in a boy to do a man’s work. Windows crashed on me. Granted, it doesn’t happen too terribly often, but when you lose work, that’s not much consolation.
I’m writing this from my Sorcerer-built Linux box, which I’ve christened Exodus. I don’t normally name PCs, but Exodus seems like an appropriate name for the machine that’ll help me leave Windows behind. (I’ll probably keep a Windows box around since I can make some fast money writing about Windows, but for real work, I think this Linux box is going see some heavy duty.)

I compiled Kmail; it’s adequate for my e-mail needs. I need IMAP, the ability to easily handle attachments, and the ability to cut and paste to and from my browser. So Kmail’s the ideal candidate, if it can do these things without crashing.

Add KDE’s Advanced Editor, with its ability to reformat text a la Notetab, and I’ve got everything I need to maintain this site. That’s nice.

I’m tired. I think I’ve got an appointment with my pillow, and this steel-slab buckling-spring IBM keyboard doesn’t look like a very comfortable substitute. I’m outta here.

Hey hey! Sorcerer Linux works

I’m writing this from my fast and lovely new Linux workstation, compiled from scratch using Sorcerer.. I’m a psycho, I know, starting a compile in the morning before leaving for work and letting it run all day, just in hopes of having a slightly faster computer. But it is faster. Compiling XFree86 and KDE sure does take a while though. I let KDE run while I was at work; I got home and found it had compiled successfully, so I fired up the Konqueror Web browser, hoping to see the fastest Web browser in history. It was quick, but didn’t render GIFs. A little hunting turned up why: It hadn’t configured QT with the -gif option while compiling it. I don’t know the legality of a private individual in the United States compiling QT with the option to decode GIFs. Don’t you just love software patents?
If you’re willing to risk being a criminal, or you’re into civil disobedience, or you’ve forked the bucks over to Unisys for the right to decode GIFs, and you’re wanting to give Sorcerer a try, edit /var/lib/sorcery/grimoire/graphics/qt-x11/BUILD and add the option -gif to the ./configure line.

How do I like it? An awful lot. I may never go back to a standard distribution again. Seriously. And, frankly, the Linux apps are good enough to do just about everything I want or need to do. I need to decide on a mail client, but there are several to choose from.

My general take on Linux hasn’t changed much. Yeah, it takes a long time to learn. A lot of it doesn’t seem intuitive until you’ve been using it for 10 years. But how many Windows tools have you been using for 10 years? Not many because it changes so fast. So I can keep on learning a bunch of underpowered stuff, or I can learn a bunch of really powerful stuff that I can more or less count on still being the same 10, 15, 20 years from now. I think I like that option. (That’s not to say I’m going to become a vi proponent; I can stumble around in vi now, but it’s obvious to me that vi first looked easy because yeah, anything’s easier than a line editor, and commands and features got bolted on later, and the result was fast and powerful but clumsy.)

If you didn’t compile it yourself, it’s not really yours.

I’m on my Linux From Scratch kick again. Unfortunately, compiling a complete workstation from scratch takes a really long time (the systems that benefit the most from it, namely low-end P2s, need close to a day to compile everything if you want X, KDE and GNOME and some common apps) and requires you to type a lot of awkward commands that are easy to mess up. The upside: Messages like, “I did my first LFS on a Pentium II 18 months ago and it was by far the best workstation I’ve ever had,” are common on LFS discussion boards.
So what to do…? If you want to learn a lot about how Linux works, you type all the commands manually and let the system build itself, and if you’re away while the system’s waiting for the next set of commands, well, the system just sits there waiting for you. In a couple of days or a week you’ll literally know Linux inside and out, and you’ll have the best workstation or server you ever had.

If, on the other hand, you’re more interested in having the best workstation or server farm you ever had and less interested in knowing Linux inside and out (you can always go back and do it later if you’re really interested–CPUs and disks aren’t getting any slower, after all), you use a script.

What script? Well, RALFS, for one. Just install Mandrake 8 or another 2.4-based distribution, preferably just the minimum plus all the compilers plus a text editor you’re comfortable with, then download the sources from, then download RALFS, edit its configuration files, get into text mode to save system resources, and let RALFS rip.

RALFS looks ideal for servers, since the ideal server needs just a kernel, the standard utilities that make Unix Unix, plus just a handful of server apps such as Apache, Samba, Squid, or BIND. So RALFS should build in a couple of hours for servers. And since a server should ideally waste as few CPU cycles and disk accesses as possible, RALFS lets you stretch a box to its limits.

I think I need a new mail server…


Mailbag: (I apologize for the error yesterday!)

VCache; Hacking setup

Sales of Optimizing Windows are surging. It’s been in the 3,000 range lately in sales rank at Amazon, which is much higher than it’s been in many months. The insane $7.50 asking price probably has something to do with it. Across the Big Pond, Amazon UK is sold out and has the book on order. Thanks to all who have ordered copies.

Linux experiments. I loaded up Mandrake 7.2 on my dual Celeron box yesterday. I’d forgotten how nice Linux can be compared to Windows: Here I was, recompiling a kernel, with a full KDE desktop running, and the system was using all of my 320 MB of RAM and not touching the swap space. That’s efficiency. I had a process monitor running, and no matter what I was doing, Linux was using just under 320 MB of RAM for something or another, adjusting its usage on the fly as my demands changed.

So, why was I recompiling a kernel? I wanted an all-Reiser setup, no ext2, for speed purposes, and Mandrake can’t do that out of the box. So I was compiling a kernel to include static ReiserFS support. Then I formatted a Reiser partition and copied the entire setup over to that new partition. But first I had to have a kernel that could speak Reiser from the get-go, which Mandrake’s provided kernel does not. Also, Mandrake’s kernel is Pentium-optimized, and I wanted i686 optimization since this is a Celeron system.

The process for getting an all-Reiser Mandrake setup isn’t too terribly hairy; I’ll probably do a writeup soon. I found some instructions for doing it with Red Hat 6.2, but they were either inaccurate or Mandrake changed some stuff. I was able to figure it out pretty easily, but then again, I was writing a book about Linux until recently so my opinion of the difficulty level probably doesn’t count. Copying 1.1 gigs of data over from the original ext2 filesystem over to the new Reiser filesystem takes a good bit of time though, especially if they reside on the same drive.

It’s pretty impressive how far Linux has come over the course of the past year. Mandrake 7 was good enough that I thought I might be able to get by without Windows. With Mandrake 7.2 I certainly could get by without it, except now I’m making my money off Windows so I won’t. But I could give my mom a Mandrake 7.2 box and she’d be happier with it than she is with the Mac she has at work. It would be far more stable, far faster, less expensive, and it can do everything she does with her Mac (read e-mail, browse the Web, and run WordPerfect). And its hardware use is certainly more prudent than Windows’ is. My dual Celeron-366 is a pretty good W2K box, but running Linux, especially with a custom kernel tuned to my hardware, it’s a really nice workstation. And it was cheap!

Christianity revisited. Hopefully yesterday’s post wasn’t universally read as criticism of Roman Catholicism as a whole. Many Lutherans are every bit as obsessed with traditionalism, hence my “Wait, therefore, for 15th-century Germans to come to you,” statement that I know will offend a number of people. (It’s good for them.)

There are dying churches in every denomination, sadly. And vibrant churches in all of them as well. Hopefully those who survive will be able to carry the torch when they need to.

Aimee Mann rarities. I have information from a reliable source that Aimee Mann’s first recording, Bark Along With the Young Snakes, released in 1982, is still available from the publisher, for $15, shipping included. You can contact him at (Remove the “nospam” from the address when e-mailing him.)

You bet I’ve already ordered my copy, though more for historical interest than anything else. She’s a much better songwriter at age 40 than she was at 22, but there’s a certain novelty to hearing her sing punk rock.

Sorry about yesterday’s mail. The file is nowhere to be found on this server. I’ll have to let Di know; hopefully it still exists somewhere on her computer.

Mailbag: (I apologize for the error yesterday!)

VCache; Hacking setup


I know there’s a word for this
I know ’cause we’ve all at some time said it
like when we were little kids
we’d fight each other ’til someone would give in
and you’d make him tell you ‘uncle’
  –Aimee Mann, “I Know There’s a Word” (Whatever, 1993)

Those lyrics came to mind the instant I read this.  My talkback is #22. There’s little point in reproducing any of it here.

I had a run-in with Mr. Darren (I recognize his style) the summer before last. Typical story Jerry tells. Jerry talks about Apple attack dogs who leap on anyone who dares write anything negative about Apple. Same principle here. Eventually you reach the point where you get sick of it and therefore don’t write anything at all about the subject to avoid the attack dogs.

The ignorance these people display about how computer journalism and the computer industry itself operate is unbelievable. Is it so unusual to learn something about a subject before opening your mouth about it?

This kind of crap makes me glad that now I’m not writing a book about Linux and Windows that might actually suggest that some people might have reason to run Windows. Oh, hell. I’ll go ahead and say it. Attention zealots: You know what software your beloved O’Reilly uses to write and edit its manuscripts? Microsoft Word!

On to a more pleasant subject. Good thing there’s a whole lot more to life than just computers. A friend called me up and told me to make sure I picked up the November issue of Vanity Fair because of a brief Aimee Mann/Michael Penn feature in it, plus Elvis Costello’s Top 500 recommended CDs. Good stuff. The issue kept me distracted from my article (due ASAP) for the better part of an hour.

Elvis’ best line: “As for the hit records of today, maybe some of them will sound just fantastic in 20 years’ time. It’s your life. So! No Marilyn, Korn, Puffy, Eddie Money–sorry, Kid Rock–Limp Bizkit, Ricky, Britney, Backstreet Boys, etc., etc.”

Here here!

Mail later. Probably. Assuming I bother.

It’s later. In March of 1999, Jerry was having some or another Linux problem, he got mail-bombed, and I sent him a letter, addressing him but also the Linux zealotry, asking, “What do you want? Do you want to be a punk computer like the Amiga, that no one uses? Repeat after me: Criticism of Linux is not a personal attack on me.” Jerry printed it, the result was a lot of mail.

One of them was this letter, to which I started writing a response but never got around to finishing because I couldn’t figure out what he wanted from me. This is, I’m pretty certain, the same “Darren” who wrote the “Jerry Pournelle finally admits he’s a Microsoft shill” headline at Linuxtoday.

I believe that what he and others like him are calling for is not journalism, nor is it editorial (which is where you call it like you see it–technically, that’s what Jerry Pournelle does. He’s a columnist, not a journalist) but rather, sheer advocacy.

I present it here. Opinions welcome–the mail link’s to the left, and you can leave comments by clicking on the skull icon at the end of the message (that’s what that’s for–I just haven’t gotten around to changing it).

From: Darren []Sent: Thursday, March 11, 1999 11:09 AM
Subject: RE: Your letter on Chaos Manor


You asked the question “What do Linux Users want?”.

We want ACCURATE reporting.  This does not mean that we do not accept negative commentary.  This means that we are sick and tired of people with obvious Microsoft slants propagating unsubstantiated FUD while claiming journalistic objectivity.

Jerry Pournelle has a long history of being pro-microsoft.  His negative comments about Linux have a history of being based in ignorance. When he first started working with Linux and complaining about the lack of usability of Linux, he hadn’t even gotten a Linux system up and running. Why does he want Linux to continue to exist? So that Microsoft will continue to improve and dominate. These are demonstrable facts.

Journalists have continually spread anti-Linux FUD from Microsoft most often without any basis in fact. Until recently, the “difficult to use” argument was the predominant position. KDE, FVWM and other “easy-to-use” interfaces have existed for YEARS. This FUD has only recently been dying off after Microsoft’s demonstration of Caldera in court. There is the “lack of support” FUD argument. This FUD is finally dying off now that IBM, HP, Compaq, et al, have joined in the Linux “support” bandwagon. What is really ironic is that they are simply repackaging and using the same support mechanisms that have existed since the introduction of Linux 1.0 in 1994. Now we have a concentration of the “lack of applications” FUD. As more people become aware of HOW to use the sites such as and, this argument will also become apparent for the FUD that it is.

What do Linux users want? We want techno-journalists who do more than simply repeat the latest FUD out of Redmond.  They claim to have a certain level of expertise in the technical arena, but are most often only successful at demonstrating their own ignorance.

You obviously feel that we have been out of line in our treatment of certain journalists.  Would you care to give me an example of negative Linux reporting that was accurate from Jesse Berst, Jerry Pournelle or Ben Elgin? How about you give me any example at all from ANY journalist?

I am confident that I will be able to take any example you give me and show you how it is slanted, inaccurate, and not worthy of being published by professional journalists.

I do not intend this to be a flame mail, I just want to do my part to kill the bad journalism.


I also have some (very lengthy) mail from someone who I believe is taking a much more constructive approach, or at least whose criticisms are much more valid. That should appear soon.

Amiga influence on Linux

Amiga lives! (Well, sort of). When it comes to GUIs, I’m a minimalist. Call me spoiled; the first GUI I used was on a 7.16-MHz machine with a meg of RAM, and it was fast. Sure, it wasn’t long before software bloat set in and I had to add another meg, and then another, but at a time when Windows 3.1 was running like crap on 4 megs and only decently on 8, I had 6 megs on my Amiga and didn’t really know what to do with all of it. So I left 3 megs available to the system, ran a 3-meg ramdisk, and all was well with the world. Until Commodore’s raw dead fish marketing caught up with it and pulled it and the company under.
Under Linux, KDE and GNOME look good, but they run slower than Windows on my PCs. And I like the idea of my P120 being a usable box. I can do that under Linux, but not with KDE as my Window manager. There’s IceWM, which is nice and lean, and there’s xFCE, which resembles HP’s implementation of CDE (and also resembles OS/2, bringing back fond memories for me–why is it everything I like is marketed as raw dead fish?), and now, two years after its release, I’ve discovered AmiWM.

AmiWM ( is a clone of the Amiga Workbench, the Amiga’s minimalist GUI. It’s small and fast and reminds me of the good old days when computers were computers, and didn’t try to be CD players, dishwashers, toaster ovens, televisions, and the like. For an aging PC (or for a new one that you want to run as quickly as possible–hey, you must be mildly interested in that, seeing as you’re reading my site and that’s my specialty), this one’s hard to beat.

Linux memory requirements

I had an old system open today. I’ll call it Austin Powers because it lost its mobo. But anyway, it had 64 MB of RAM in it that I didn’t realize I had (I thought it had 32, or at most, 48). So I pulled out the four 16-MB SIMMs, opened up my P120, pulled its four 8-MB SIMMs, and replaced them. While Linux is OK in 32 megs if you set it up right (using a lightweight window manager instead of KDE or, worse yet, Enlightenment, pulling out the daemons that provide services you never use, such as BIND and sendmail), it’s a lot happier with 64. I still need to really optimize it, but for a P120 I’m very impressed. If I could get AbiWord to work with O’Reilly’s templates, I could use it to write books.

Why Linus Torvalds is more popular than RMS

Quote of the day. This one made me laugh out loud–probably because I have a journalism degree, I’ve seen journalism professors show up for class sloshed, a good number of my friends are journalists, and, technically, I’m a journalist myself.
“I know how journalists work. They drink too much and they search for interesting stories.” –Linus Torvalds, in the Spring 1999 issue of Linux Magazine.

As for Torvalds, his mom, dad, grandfather, sister, and uncle are all journalists. Yikes!

Stallman on the warpath. My chance to be divisive, I guess. As a journalist, I mustn’t shy away from it. Hey, we’re supposed to look for these opportunities. So…

GNU/Linux is a horrible name. Stallman’s efforts should be commended, yes. I believe they have been. Stallman’s not exactly a household name yet, but certainly more people know who he is now than a year ago. If he wants GNU and his Free Software Foundation to be known, he needs to borrow more pages from Eric Raymond, or even better yet, Torvalds.

As an aside, I had a conversation with a friend and one of his friends the other night over coffee, and the whole Linux/Open Source/Free Software/whatever topic came up (probably because he introduced me as, “Dave, my friend who wrote a book about Windows and now he’s writing a book about Linux.”). I was trying to explain Stallman, and finally I just said, “He’s so libertarian he doesn’t believe in capitalism.” She stopped for a minute. “Libertarians don’t believe in capitalism?” Sure they do, usually fanatically so. But capitalism puts certain limits on your liberties, and if those liberties mean more to you than capitalism, you can start to disdain capitalism. It’s strange, but remember, in the 1930s the leaders of Germany, Italy, Japan, and Spain took conservatism to such an extreme that it led to a form of socialism. The boundaries blur at the edges.

End aside. Raymond and Torvalds are better known than Stallman partly because they’re nicer and more reasonable people. Want proof? OK. Here’s an interview with Stallman, here’s one with Torvalds, and here’s one with Raymond.

It’s pretty clear from reading these interviews why Torvalds is the most popular of these guys, and why he’s become a bit of a media darling. Yes, he looks more like the anti-Gates than RMS or Raymond, but there’s more to it than just that: He’s more charismatic, he’s less intellectual (though he’s obviously a brilliant guy, he’s much more apt to laugh or crack a joke than try to convince you he knows more than you do), and he’s considerably more humble. He’s a likable guy. More likeable than Stallman or Raymond, and more likable than Gates.

Harping the GNU/Linux thing isn’t going to accomplish much. People have a hard enough time figuring out what Linux is supposed to be. And where do we draw the line? Sure, Linux isn’t very useful without some set of utilities (and the GNU utilities are the most commonly used). But what about XFree86? That didn’t come from GNU. But if it weren’t for XFree86, very few people would be interested in either GNU or Linux. And what about KDE? Stallman hates KDE because it dares to use the Qt library, which wasn’t always GPL. But it’s largely thanks to KDE that we’re not stuck using the often-convoluted interfaces that shipped with early Linux distributions. Without KDE, there probably wouldn’t have been a GNOME in response. OK, so now we’re up to GNU/Linux/XFree86/KDE. Oh yeah. A lot of the daemons people use with Linux (minor details like Sendmail and BIND–just the building blocks of the Internet, nothing to get worked up about) came not from GNU but from the BSD project. GNU/BSD/Linux/XFree86/KDE, anyone?

This becomes a convoluted mess. Maybe “Linux” isn’t the best name (if we named all OSs after the kernel, Windows 9x would still be called DOS), but it’s the name people recognize. My goal in writing is to communicate as clearly as possible. That means using the popular name.

A makeover for Stallman. I’m already in trouble, so I might as well get in a lot of trouble. We find out early in that interview that Stallman lived in is office for 13 years or something. He had a bed in his office! What, did he sleep there, wake up, code for 16 hours a day, except for breaks for meals and a break for a shower whenever he felt like it? As Torvalds says, journalists look for interesting stories. Here’s an eccentric guy. Let’s find out more about his eccentricism. Find out about the eccentricism, you learn about the dedication. It sounds like this guy just might be more dedicated and fanatic about software than Martin Luther was about Jesus. How can that be?

In fact, Stallman may have logged 16-hour days at the keyboard. He alludes to it in the interview, when he says he suffered carpal tunnel syndrome from too much coding. But he didn’t talk about it.

Stallman has this ridiculous folk song he plays about how hackers need to follow him, and they’ll be free. He alludes to folk music in the interview, how one person can take a song someone took from someone else, and it becomes a rich thing. What if Stallman brought his acoustic guitar to this interview, said, “Like this!” and played his ridiculous song, then said, “Hmm. Maybe not.” A little self-depracating humor works sometimes. Especially when you have a reputation for being pompous and arrogant. Just ask Linus.

People have to have a compelling reason to listen to you. Giving them a bunch of free stuff is a good start, I’ll admit. Though he speaks about word processors in a demeaning manner, which may make some programmers born and bred on text editors stand up and cheer, but I’m not sure I like the tool of my trade looked down upon in that way. I’m sure my mom doesn’t. The tools we need are different from the tools rms needs, and he needs to recognize that.

So, the difference between my mom and me. I have to listen to Stallman, I have to at least feign interest in who he is and what he’s doing (and to be honest, I don’t have to try all that hard) because I’m being paid to write a book that’s almost as much about him and his work as it is about Torvalds and Gates. But why should my mom give a rip about this guy? And therein lies the problem. With years of retraining, my mom could get her job done with a Linux (or better yet, Hurd, so Stallman and GNU can get all the credit) box running GNU Emacs. Hey, it’s a text editor, it’s a Web browser, it’s a programming environment, it’s a dessert topping, it’s a floor wax! And at the end of this retraining, I could then look her in the eye and say, “You’re free.” And you know what she’d tell me? She’d give me a dirty look and tell me it wasn’t worth it.

Stallman’s attitude is, “I’ll sacrifice a little (or a lot of) convenience in order to be free.” Torvalds? He freely admits his mom uses a Mac, his dad uses Windows, and his sister uses Windows. Then he corrects himself. “No, she [his sister] uses Microsoft Works. Windows is nothing more than a program loader to her. She doesn’t care how these computers work.”

I think the contrasting attitudes have a lot to do with why Torvalds feels he has too much attention and Stallman not enough. People more readily identify with Torvalds.

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