09 March 2010

Richard Stallman speaks on Free Software in Oman

Richard Mathew Stallman (aka RMS) the father of the free software movement is in Muscat - Oman, giving talks at the Free Software Symposium organised by the Information Technology Authority of Oman.

Digital Oman highlights this legendary personality, his philosophy and crusades in the software industry.
Richard Stallman is a legendary figure in the computing world, and his presence in Oman is only indicative of the energy that lies within this country to take up challenges in using ‘free software’, study its source-code, change and even publish this modified version’.
Dr. Richard Stallman was born to Daniel Stallman and Alice Lippman and he showed exceptional skills in the logic of mathematics since the tender age of 8.
After graduating from Harvard and experiencing MIT, he moved on to work at the MIT Artificial Intelligence centre where his quest for freedom in using software started.
He began his free software activism by launching the GNU (GNU is Not Unix) Project in 1983 and set up his Free Software Foundation (FSF) in 1985. The main goal of GNU (http://www.blogger.com/www.gnu.org) was to develop a free Operating System that was compatible to work with Unix - a exclusive portable OS of that time.
All efforts from the GNU team were successful when Linus Torvalds released his ‘Linux’ operating system kernel free in 1995 under the General Public License (GPL). FSF is a non-profit corporation organisation that employs free software programmers and provides a legal infrastructure for the free software movement.
Most software bought from vendors is licensed only for use of the executable version. However ‘free software’ is not only provided free but it’s also distributed along with the source code of the software in a human-readable form. Quoting Stallman, “My work on free software is motivated by an idealistic goal: spreading freedom and cooperation”.

He believes that our copy of a free program is our property, and that we are free to use it in all the ethical ways, unlike proprietary software which holds monopoly in terms of support ranging from bug-fixes to functional enhancements and extensions.

“Software users should have the freedom to ‘share it with their neighbour’ and to be able to study and make changes to the software that they use”, he adds.

Activists like Jim Warren, editor of Dr. Dobb's Journal support his point of view by stating that, “When software is free, or so inexpensive that it's easier to pay for it than to duplicate it, then it won't be 'stolen'”.
The original intention of free software to share knowledge and promote development for all assures the following four actions:

freedom to use the work
freedom to study the work
freedom to copy and share the work with others,
freedom to modify the work and
freedom to distribute modified and therefore derivative works
In software, it requires that the source code of the derived work is made available along with the software. In reality, it is not always is the case that derivative works are also distributed under the same free licence scheme and this can itself be considered unethical.
To quote an example of the above, the GNU manifesto states as follows: ‘GNU is not in the public domain. Everyone will be permitted to modify and redistribute GNU, but no distributor will be allowed to restrict its further redistribution. That is to say, proprietary modifications will not be allowed. I want to make sure that all versions of GNU remain free.’

Dr. Stallman has won The Association for Computing Machinery's Grace Murray Hopper Award "For pioneering works in the development of the extensible editor EMACS (Editing Macros)" in 1990, Electronic Frontier Foundation's Pioneer award in 1998 and several other honorary doctorates from universities across the world.

The book ‘Free as in Freedom’ - Richard Stallman's Crusade for Free Software’ written by Sam Williams and published by O’Reilly publications is available as a free open book online at http://oreilly.com/openbook/freedom/index.html.
Creative Commons Licensing (http://www.blogger.com/www.creativecomons.org) intends to support free use combined with free right to distribute with or without changes, while placing additional restrictive conditions. GPL is an of CCL scheme. As additional knowledge in this context reader’s can read the full text of this GPL licence at http://tinyurl.com/y78muw.

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