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Cake day: api. 18, 2021

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Well, yes and no. Matrix is a protocol, yes, but it manifests as a cloud messenger, meaning all the messages are stored on all servers taking part in the conversation. Yes, if you use E2E, these messages are encrypted – but that’s by far not enough for these conversations to be considered “private”.

So no, keys matter much, but they aren’t everything.

What we need (and they seem to be working on this, as they do actually acknowledge the weaknesses of Matrix!) is true peer-to-peer conversation.


I like the idea of community-driven man pages, OTOH most of them were of quite a low quality (quite some time ago) and gave examples that were bad practice. And, at least for everything POSIX the man pages have really well-written and thought out examples.


Neurodivergent is a broad category. And it ain’t a free pass for being an asshole, but anyway.

He’s a major de-facto leader, the actual position does, in fact, not matter as it’s the role he is perceived to be in. And yes, this perception matters because it is this that forms other peoples opinion on the FSF.

I agree that the line b/w Open Source and Free Software is already too blurry. Ironically though, the people who invented Open Source, like ESR, are supporters of RMS in the letter.

I think the best thing FSF/RMS could do, would be to properly address the – well known – problems, and half-hearted apologies don’t fit the bill here. This would protect Free Software from malicious free riders on this letter (and there always will be some).


Sorry for the late reply – the last week was a bit tiring and I didn’t feel able to give enough attention to a reply :)

I think you’re very right about it mostly coming down to perception. While I’d personally have wished for a more direct stance from Debian, I think I understand better now the ideas behind it. Thanks!

At least in Europe the EFF together with the Chaos Computer Club are quite successfully pushing for Free Software (and related issues). But they’re still getting there and obviously they didn’t want to “steal” the FSF topic from them. Although I guess this is what this will develop into, over long term.

I’m not good enough in anything wrt. law as to know whether this could be a problem, as this also depends very much on the country we’re talking about. But I agree that this is a minor issue.

Again, thanks for taking so much time for the discussion, it was really educating and helped me see other viewpoint(s)!


If you target a binary for dropping a backdoor you usually want to build a binary that runs everywhere. My guess is that they could figure out how to build a drop-in systemd that they could compile once and worked on all major distros. This would be much harder with the kernel itself.

Regarding how it is setup: Often backdoors & exploits are sold in packages and combined when attacking the victims. Depending on the group behind the specific attack, the exploit used for setup may be different on each deployment.


Well, reading documentation is a skill people need to acquire as well, hopefully your documentation will help her learn this skill soon :)

Oh, and thanks for the kind words!


What a load of bullshit. You can, in fact, install the new Ubuntu versions and flavours, it’s just the upgrade path that isn’t there yet – which is actually quite common. LTS releases even wait for the .1 release before enabling upgrades.

There are two sides of SecureBoot: The “MS is the only CA” side and the “You can have measured and signed boot”. The former is, unanimously, agreed to be bad. But this isn’t something the Linux community can protest by not allowing for the latter to happen.

The latter is actually a really great addition wrt security. Your full disk encryption is shite when you pass borders, if you don’t sign your system binaries. Travelling, at least before Covid, wasn’t that uncommon, I’ve heard.

All the cases where the FBI is whining about not being able to unlock iPhones? It’s because Apple uses a combination of signed, attested boot and encryption. Do we really want a Linux which is less secure than your average smartphone? Or even a fucking Windows?

This “problem” here affects those who want to upgrade now. But this group is also capable to deactivate SB or custom-sign the shim. All regular users don’t care and upgrade when it’s ready.


Documentation is hard to get right, and something than is often taught wrong and with the wrong goal. It’s not amount or “coverage” that matters, it’s making it available exactly where it’s needed.

It’s like comments: Comments are not intrinsically good, they are a necessary evil (Uncle Bob).


I don’t think it’s an exploit, it’s a backdoor. So someone who already had access drops this binary which then allows for further control by a CoC server.


No suspend right now is a bummer, but promising. Does it also support serial?


Uh, Sun Microsystems basically offered cloud computing before everyone else, but…


Hm, is Matrix the “right” platform for an IM though? Due to it being a cloud messenger it’s inherently not really private (although it can be anonymous). I use Matrix for those things that IRC or Jabber/XMPP would have solved back then, and also for Mailinglist lime things.

Sure, we have E2E but the messages are stored on all servers taking part in the conversation…


I didn’t expect the limit to kick in as well, but there we go … :)

I agree that we do mostly agree (whelp) and I think there is indeed not much to say but just to clarify our points to enhance mutual understanding. I think we have pretty much reached what some people call “agree to disagree” although I do not like this saying…

For the record, I don’t feel misrepresented at all, and thoroughly enjoy your responses!


This is the part that still seems strange to me. If these episodes are so frequent and blatant there must be plenty of testimonials, […]

I cannot speak for those who wrote the letter, but I fear that there’s indeed not much written record since most of the allegations I heard of (before, and outside of the letter) were with misdemeanor outside of electronic conversations in conferences. Although you’re right that such things should’ve been tried (Idk if they did, but if they did, they should’ve brought this up). However, as in many cases, the usual minorities are too tired (and also afraid) to speak up and don’t have the energy to fight for their cause. Meaning, their support group (friends, family) do the work which is in many ways unfortunate but also means that there will hardly be proper interviews or similar. It’s difficult enough to do such an investigation when there are actual crimes. Also, I think, this would’ve increased and emphasized the “guilty” part even more, while the original intention was/should’ve been to make the FSF and RMS question their own deeds.

I totally agree that this misfired though.

Part of the issue is probably the writers of the open letter not really being sure themselves whether they want to prove RMS guilty or ask for introspection, and even subconsciously looking for “justice” when that’s actually not productive going forward. After all, the human being as a whole loves to jump on the justice/revenge/guilt band wagon far too easily. And even if criticism is well-founded, writing up this criticism is no fail-guard against unnecessary allegations of guilt.

Had the FSF listened to the letter, removed RMS and completelly changed the entire board, it would not be a total surprise to me if the same motivation that pushed for the anti-anti-RMS letter ended up giving birth to a new alternative movement, more welcome to RMS and the directors from the previous board. Maybe a new foundation would have been created, in a similar way as how the Open Source Initiative differentiated itself from the FSF. Creating more division in the movement and taking a bite of the FSF cake.

Maybe many in the OSI are secretly happy about all this drama, I wouldn’t be surprised if they got at least a small bump in supporters. After all they exist as a more pragmatic alternative to Stallman’s FSF. It’s also interesting that 4 out of the 16 people who appear as authors of the open letter are directors or former directors of the OSI.

Honestly, you voiced my secret biggest fear there. I’m not a fan of the OSI at all, which makes this whole situation so tragic to me. In fact, maybe the failure of the anti-RMS letter was for the best in that sense, as that way the “creation of the alternative FSF” is initiated anti-RMS side, although I’m not yet sure or convinced by the “GNU Assembly” either :D

I agree it would be good to see a new flow of progressive change. But the sad thing is that there has not really been any loud voice inside or outside the FSF that introduced any new strain of philosophy as groundbreaking as the initial movement was in the 90s. The thing is that we aren’t talking about a new approach, we are talking about the respect for others that already has been claimed. What we are talking is not being progressive but being consequent with values we already are meant to defend.

The issue is the question “are these values not being respected?”. There’s division on the answer to that, and if the division is not solved and it keeps scalating then ultimatelly it could mean the FSF itself could divide, with a new organization appearing or maybe the OSI taking over the banner.

Absolutely agree. For what it’s worth, I think the only new “progressive” voice here is the EFF, while strictly having a different focus, it is very much in the spirit of many things copy-left: User autonomy and rights. And since it also advocates for things that aren’t as… dare I say 'esoteric… as software licenses but also privacy etc., it’s much more approachable to those who don’t have the software developer outlook on things.

But it could also happen that they don’t manage to address the right problems (I’m still skeptical on whether it’s true that the FSF & RMS know / understand what the problem is) or that even if they did, they are already dehumanized and the ideological war against them will never stop no matter what RMS & the FSF board do (other than removing themselves not only from the FSF but from all interaction).

I’m with you on being skeptical of RMS & FSF understanding the issue in the first place. It’s something that’s not even unique to RMS. My mom is definitely quite left and progressive but she has a hard time understanding most of the issues the left is fighting for, other than all the ‘old wars’ (tbf, she’s 63), if it wasn’t for me explaining to her. And it must be me, since I’m her child and have a connection I can actually use to bridge this gap—with the end result being that she understands the issues well enough to see.

But this bridge is very difficult to build if you’re online, have no family or friendship bonds, and the issue is smouldering for decades. It’s doubly difficult since the primary issues the FSF fights for aren’t related at all to the problems discussed, thus discussing them inside the FSF or with RMS will always be seen as a distraction or annoyance, taking precious time away from their actual fight.

I guess we’ll see how this plays out. While I do hope that there will be change in the existing organizations, I’m afraid that the FSF and the core of the free software movement will die sooner or later, either with a bang or silently. I do have hopes in the EFF though, as stated, in taking over many issues that should be addressed in some way.


… Obviously it’s important to treat malice different from unintentional things when it comes to judging (and I know, you read the letter as judging and I didn’t but I see where you’re coming from and admit that it’s bad that it could be read that way). However, if you read the letter just as a demand to remove him to stop further harm (my reading) then, this is pretty much irrelevant.

But asking for his removal and the dissolution of the entire board did not stick either. It’s actually a demand harder to defend.

And even if it had, he still speaks when he wants. Not being in the board of directors is not gonna stop that. If his words are too loud is because of RMS popularity as independent “philosopher”, not because of his position in the FSF.

That’s true, and, honestly, kinda shameful for the FSF. The FSF would/will/… have a hard time to justify it’s sense w/o RMS.

If the intention was to play poker and ask for something crazy to try and get anything at all then… well, it shouldn’t be a surprise if that craziness is called out and it results in mixed reactions that end up mudding the waters and missing the point.

Sure, in the end such poker move might actually work (if the real intention was to get some reaction from the FSF and not really what was demanded) but at what cost? I’m sure things could have gone better by playing it cool. Many portrayed this as a “witch hunt” and I don’t think those reactions were unjustified. This isn’t just bad image for RMS but also for the anti-RMS crowd, to the point that an anti-anti-RMS letter came up with 6000+ signatures, double than the original letter.

I think, in hindsight, the way the letter was worded and prepared was the wrong step forward. Unfortunately, I also don’t really see an alternative. There were more kind, more proper, discussions before, for decades. Sometimes they even resulted in change!

But where are we now, in the year 2021? The FSF has become irrelevant, for many reasons. Some can definitely be attributed to the way the Internet and corporations developed, how Open Source became a thing (ironically ESR has signed the anti-anti-RMS letter :D) etc. But also, the FSF was kind-of at the forefront of political discussion in the technology scene, with seeing the technology as someone that should revolve around human needs and society, and not vice-versa. It was refreshing, it was new, it was progressive.

And while the FSF is still radical, it feels like that’s the only thing left. Radical, senseless (to the point it becomes annoying), repeating of anti-firmware tirades etc. Obviously, many stances are still more progressive than the political climate, but they’ve lost pretty much their target group. It feels like having Rosa Luxemburg as a leader of “The Left”: While certainly progressive, not fitting for the time.

People pressed for changes, but nothing could be heard over the deafening presence of RMS. Maybe the best criticism of the FSF is that it’s just “The RMS Society”. Which isn’t necessarily bad, but it means that we have gap there, where an FSF that wouldn’t be “just RMS” would be.

All in all, I think we agree on many points of the problem(s). And perhaps even, that such an “open letter” isn’t always bad, but simply whether this was the point of time that this letter should have been written. And also, that there are certainly some things in the letter that could’ve been phrased better, to say the least.


That was a long comment, but I felt much more comfortable quote-posting as I didn’t want to write this up from memory, in order not to talk past your points or misrepresent you.


np, I’m glad this is mutual!


Oh sorry, that’s not what I meant. You’ve been very respectful.

phew, I sometimes have the issue of coming off condescending, which I definitely do not intend :)

Why not just state the facts and let them speak for themselves?

Those facts are difficult to state, since they are mostly related to interpersonal evens like the one I stated. Although I agree that this would’ve been preferable.

Intentionally hurting people would definitely be a cause to remove him. I expect that’s actually against the FSF code.

The thing with making a public open letter like this is that you need to convince not only the FSF but also those that you are asking signatures from. Specially if they’re also being asked to boicot the FSF donations and events.

I get your point here, but that’s, to me the crux of the situation: These are internal events and often in violation of the FSF’s own code. Thus, there should’ve been an internal investigation, but that didn’t happen. The problem then though is: What now? As with allegations of (sexual) abuse, those things are hard to proof to the public. However, the FSF board very much knows of (most of) the cases they allude to, and they are the addresses.

However, as you correctly observe, it’s an open letter since they need to build pressure on the FSF. But they can’t “just state the facts” for the reasons mentioned. This is, definitely, a difficult situation.

But I don’t think everyone ought to “decide” to support one or the other letter, especially those completely outside of the circle. As they, indeed, have very little insight into what happened. It’s an ugly situation, I totally agree with that.

Then it shouldn’t be surprising to see a counter-reaction from those who do not have account of those incidents and who do not think the accusations are deserved.

Absolutely, it isn’t surprising! The problem with the whole situation is that it should have been solved internally but hasn’t. Such things are predestined to go badly.

In the end, the immediate circle of people affected (including the FSF board) can really judge. But also, in our society, it is simply a fact that everyone needs to position themselves, despite not actually really being in charge.

Like you said, this should not have been about “deserving punishment” but about protecting others. Yet the letter does not talk much about the victims, the harm and what caused it. It does not really explain how removing Stallman stops him from that abuse or what mistakes the FSF itself has done that have been a consequence of Stallman being part of the board. The letter does come off as seeking punishment for his independent behavior.

I didn’t read the letter that way, but I can see how it can be read as punishment. I can not counter this and have to say that this shouldn’t be (wasn’t?) intended. I agree that discussing the problems the FSF had due to RMS would indeed have been a very healthy addition.

Even if they really did believe that RMS is behaving like that on purpose out of malice/phobia/insanity/other, had they made the exercise of assuming that it was a reiterated and constant mistake would have gone a long way to actually get the point across. You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Absolutely. In the end, the letter was an act of frustration long boiling and it reads that way.

It’s also ironic that when they actually try to give examples, the only thing they show are either things that have been later corrected when brought to the attention of RMS himself (like the child consent thing, but also the GNU Kind Communication Guidelines) or things that when in context are clearly misunderstandments (he isn’t saying that by law all children with down syndrome should be forcefully aborted…) or about that publicly available email thread about Minsky where he’s really not saying anything crazy when you actually read through it.

What I agree with is that they don’t properly differentiate b/w a) clear violations of other peoples personal identity or similar and b) bad PR stunts. From what I know, both things happened, while the former are usually internal issues (thus should’ve been resolved internally) and the latter, by definition, public. Taking the Minsky statement, what he said was not really crazy but uncalled-for and absolutely unnecessary pedantry. Furthermore, similar wording is also chosen in malice by those who are defending sexual abuse and belittling victims. I do think RMS wasn’t aware of what he did was basically unintentional “dog whistling” but this is very bad PR nontheless, and thus harmful to the FSF as a whole. Especially if it happens repeatedly, and no “sorry” or “correction” later can, unfortunately, fix the publicity problems that result from it.

It would have served them well if they had made a distinction b/w these two things.

That must have been quite a thing… he also came to my University (ages ago) and I heard some things from the organizers about how particular he was. I don’t really remember the details but I can imagine there are many stories like that. He’s definitely very quirky. But I’m sure there’s more than one board of directors with a “strange” nerd on it.

Sure, but quirky becomes bad rep when it ends in inappropriate behavior like pressing students with little money to pay for (quite expensive) tickets, by simply living in their “workplace”. He was told to end this behavior multiple times, but didn’t change. And that’s kind of the issue.

Also, when he’s called to give a conference like this, normally it’s for him to talk about his philosophy and personal history in the Free Software movement, independently of whatever his position is in the FSF. Kicking him out from the FSF is not preventing that scenario.

Sure, but then it’s bad rep for mostly him and the Free Software movement (bad enough), but the FSF could easily do something like distancing themselves from him. This would do them very good in all such occasions.

I agree, but are you referring to this? https://stallman.org/articles/genderless-pronouns.html

It’s possible that he’s trying to “respect the wishes” of non-binary people without really understanding what their wishes are. And knowing how particular he is about the correct manner of saying “GNU/Linux” I can imagine how a conversation about the topic with him could be difficult…

I think the key point is “without really understanding what their wishes are”, and maybe that’s the distilled version of almost all criticism of RMS. Either he doesn’t care or he thinks he knows better what people wish for than themselves. At first, this is annoying or funny (GNU/Linux pedantry), but when it comes to people and how they’d like to be addressed it quickly leaves that area and becomes downright hurtful.

My understanding is that seeking a gender-neutral pronoun can actually be the wrong call, even as an heterosexual male I would find it patronizing if Stallman used the gender neutral pronoun on me, so I expect the same would happen for someone who identified as “she” / “they” or any other pronoun. But is it actually transfobic?

I wouldn’t count the usage of it transphobic per-se, but with many things -phobic and -ist, it comes down to the power (im-)balance. That is, in current law and society, a trans person defending themselves to be called the pronoun they want has a much harder stance to defend than a non-trans, cis, person. That is, while from RMS’ pov misgendering a cis man by referring to them as “she” or whatever is the same as misgendering a trans person by referring to them with a different pronoun than asked for – from the affected persons pov this is quite different. Most cis people would definitely feel patronized by it, but they could either shrug it off or, if in public, simply demand him to behave properly. A trans person who’s regularly attacked and invalidated (in our current society) doesn’t have this luxury/privilege, and as such, these statements are hurtful and dangerous.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is: In a perfect society this wouldn’t be much more than patronizing. In a similar way, in a perfect society “black facing” wouldn’t be any different than “white facing” – but acting as if we were in such a society is wrong and dangerous to minorities.

Now, whether this is transphobic …

The open letter is locked now and they even closed the issue tracker, but before they closed it there was this comment from a trans person who actually thought accusing him of being a transfobe was too much.

… this is definitely a dividing matter. In my bubble (which, uh, contains quite some people who’re trans :p), the overwhelming opinion is that what he did, indeed, is transphobic. Obviously that’s no “proof”, but it shows that these people, who experience transphobia from other persons in the society on a day-to-day basis, have a hard time distinguishing (unintentional) dog-whistling and … patronizing behavior by Stallman from intentional attacks. Mind you, in public most transphobic people (outside of Fox News) disguise their transphobia rather well.

While similar things have been reported for RMS as well (i.e., behaving much worse to trans people in private than in public) I don’t want to dwell on it, as it’s not that much convincing. I think, in the end, it boils down to whether one counts unintentional “attacks” as transphobic or not.

To open the RMS-like jar o’ pedantry, maybe one could say that:

  • RMS isn’t a transphobe
  • However, he/says does transphobic things and
  • He has internalized transphobia

But then we need to ask ourselves: Does that change much? [to be continued since I reached the character limit… jeez]

EDIT: continuation below in comment to this comment :)


The signees didn’t suddenly change opinion and agreed on something they disagreed with before. Like you yourself said, “this is nothing new”, Stallman has been heavily criticized multiple times by his social behavior. I expected you’d have agreed with me in that.

I feel like we’re talking past each other here: I do agree! That is, indeed, part of my very point. He’s been criticized many times, but hardly ever changed (we come back to that later).

If instead of explaining that what I say is incorrect, someone tells me that I lack capacity to reason, I see that as an insult.

I never intended to insult you, by the way, if that came of as such. I very much enjoy the discussion.

However, how would you word a letter like that, when you know, from decades of experience, that the person will likely not change their behavior the same way they didn’t for years? Without implying that the person either a) lacks capacity to reason or b) is outright malicious? You ask for solid evidence, but …

The only way for it to not be an insult is if they came with solid evidence of the claim (ie. solid proof that I’m unable to reason).

The problem here is that many of the things are done, due to the nature of the org, in private. To add a personal story of my hackerspace at university: RMS was in the city and we allowed him to stay for a day in our room at university. Little did we expect him to not move out at all. The only way to get him out again was to pay for a ticket to the next conference. Sure, one can add this to the huge list, but unfortunately I hardly can provide “proof”. Nobody collects such things.

But, proof is not needed as we don’t want to judge him in front of a jury. The FSF in almost all accounts does already know what the people are talking about. This letter is not addressed to the public to hold condemnation and grudge against RMS, but addressed to those who know of the incidents. Usually this would be an “internal investigation”, however the FSF doesn’t do such thing.

Proof definitely would be nice, absolutely. But asking for proof of things that happened internally is asking for the impossible. That’s why I don’t judge people who hold him dearly, they are very much allowed to do so.

I even understand if he feels insulted or attacked. He’s confronted with the accusation that he’s not what he thinks to be. In fact, I’ve been rightly accused in the same way, and honestly, it was hard, very hard. Sometimes, I’d say, it was wrong, but sometimes the other person was indeed right. They couldn’t always provide proof, but they called out behavior in a message to me and I knew what they were talking about. The next step, though, would’ve been to call me out publicly, in case I didn’t change.

Stallman has proven more than once that he’s a person committed to the ideals he holds (and one of them is to end “racism, sexism, antisemitism, caste prejudice, and others”), and has also proven that when confronted about a topic in conversation he can change his mind (as he did about his views on child consent). So if we are to categorize him with the dehumanizing accusations the letter used, we better have solid proof that it wasn’t a mistake, that he really deserves it and that his public statements stating the opposite are a farce. Because he’s known to be misunderstood pretty frequently due to his social impairment. This is nothing new.

It’s not about “deserving punishment” but protecting others, and the FSF, from harmful behavior. And, while I agree that his changed view on child consent is… a good thing to say the least, it’s a very bad thing if people’s identities (e.g., trans, non-binary people) are invalidated and disregarded (despite scientific evidence!) because he’s being pedantic about words. His hybris to think that, just because “words” he has more knowledge on this topic than leading psychologists is telling. But worse is that trans or non-binary persons shouldn’t need to defend their very existence and identity at every corner in life. At some point (after decades of years) they cannot be expected to still talk and discuss with him, in very tiring and disrespecting discussions, what and who they are. Mind you, it’s great if minorities go out and tell people how it is to be X, but these people should be allowed to just live their life at some point.

And RMS with his stances in the FSF is… not exactly a nice space for most of them. Proofs would be nice, and him changing his opinion would be nice as well. But this is much work that we can, perhaps, expect of the society as a whole but not from the minorities that are already discriminated against.

And I agree that, in theory, the letter should demand just revoking him as a spokesperson. But do you seriously believe that this would stick? He basically made him member again w/o consulting with the board before … he speaks when he wants, and just not making him spokesperson won’t change that. Unfortunately.


A lot of people could have agreed all the years before – they didn’t. full stop.

Insults? No, accusations, sure. His behavior was more than inappropriate and that was called out. I’m baffled how one can rile up so much about the wording of the letter, but when RMS said something far more insulting that’s okay, for some reason.

And no, it matters whether he’s part of the FSF. Either he’s speaking on behalf of the FSF – or not. That he’s literally “Mr FSF” is indeed bad and part of the problem.


The problem is, him not being a spokesperson was something that was, in fact, asked multiple times before. But somehow, him still being “in power” get gets himself into position to become a spokesperson again. This is nothing new.


Is the point about guilt or being unfit for social leadership? Indeed it’s completely irrelevant whether there’s malicious intent, as the judgment is not about “should he be in hell or heaven” but “should he be leader of the FSF”.

Furthermore, he completely rejects the idea of him being autistic. In fact, many of the signatories of the “reject him from the board” letter are autistic or part of autistic support groups. And what they say is: Being autistic is not an excuse for hurting other people. Somehow all the people who are not a relevant part of the autism community suddenly all pop up and try to protect the poor autistic RMS… .

Discrimination due to some people claiming him to be autistic is simply bullshit in this context. Even more so because accepting him to question other peoples very identity and existence in society is a far more basic discrimination on his part. Be it “in malicious intent” or not. If he indeed were autistic then measures can be found to still make him fit for leadership, there are many autistic people in high positions (also signatories of the reject-rms letter).

And this is completely disregarding that he’s not only pedantic, but also, in many ways often literally wrong. Especially when it comes to meanings of words in languages. But that’s just a side note.


This reminds me of UNIX where much of the code was basically “removing things from multics”. Or, in case of C, removing everything from B and then re-adding it. Possibly this was a subconscious workaround.

Removing is hard, maybe because it’s less intuitive that the already present features aren’t “removed” in the subtractive process?