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back to article Thief open-sources Richard Stallman's laptop, passport, visa

Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation, was distressed to find his personal belongings had been liberally distributed sans GPL - his prized laptop, wallet and passport were nicked at a conference in Argentina. The snatch happened as fans of the Emacs author shouted over each other in an attempt to talk to him …

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With the current economy in Argentina its not really surprising this has happened. Argentina's President is lying to everyone about the state of the economy, and many people have no jobs or money. Theft is the least of the issues they have there. Kidnapping is the big money maker.

(Married to an Argentine)

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Tell to...

Tell that to a certain Mark Weisbort of The Guardian. He sometimes writes articles that are so pro-Argentine that he writes directly from president herself.

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"Presumably the thief will have spent the day battling a command prompt and failing to install the right codecs and packages just to watch a YouTube video."

Oh do grow up...

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Paris Hilton

So the thief wouldn't have to do that?

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@David Neil

"So the thief wouldn't have to do that?"

Do what ? Use the command line to not install working codecs ? That's not even wrong. No, what i'm objecting to is this supercilious bit of FUD towards the end of a rather meely-mouthed article. Frankly I don't give a shit about what operating system or tools people choose to use - there are plenty enough of them out them to suit pretty much anyone doing anything, and what they decide to use is entirely their affair. Pathetic little jibes such as this - based on ignorance, the desire to show some section of the audience how super-hip they are, or whatever - just get right up my nose.

El Reg staff and supporters seem awfully quick to jump on the band-wagon that just how the site is, and always has been, 'biting the hand that feeds IT' - but there's a difference (in my mind) between between biting wit and humour, and spouting age-old, ill-informed, inflammatory and un-necessary twaddle. It's just like being back in bloody infants school, hence 'grow up'.

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I agree...

This is one of the rare cases where the juvenile level of the El Reg article itself manages to start out lower than the tone of the comments in the forum.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: @David Neil

Hi Tim - I'm not sure many Argie bag thieves would know how to install a video codec on a fairly obscure MIPS64-powered netbook..

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Re: @David Neil

"I'm not sure many Argie bag thieves would know how to install a video codec on a fairly obscure MIPS64-powered netbook.."

..and i'm not sure if that was the inference of the comment - if so, I would apologise - taken in the context of this article, and having had enough of this sort of pointless remark from enough places inside and outside of the editorial staff, I thought not.

Like I say - if i've got it totally wrong, i'll apologise... perhaps Anna could elucidate - although i'm an easy mark now, aren't I ?

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: Tim

That was pretty much the sentiment of the comment: Stallman's netbook isn't well-known hardware, doesn't have a particularly user-friendly setup (gNewSense and Emacs), and is altogether not a particularly great environment for an opportunistic thief.

I dunno about Anna's past experiences with FOSS, but I know that pissing about with codecs wasn't particularly enjoyable - so I just couldn't resist inserting the jibe.

C.

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@Tim Parker

Don't worry, there probably won't be any need to apologise. There are next to 100% chances that the laptop was encrypted, this is standard practice on GNU/Linux and a Reg hack should know that.

So I guess it's pretty safe to assume that her comment was indeed derogatory.

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Re: Tim

"I dunno about Anna's past experiences with FOSS, but I know that pissing about with codecs wasn't particularly enjoyable - so I just couldn't resist inserting the jibe."

Well then I owe Anna an apology - i'm not sure about adding stuff to other peoples articles without notice or attribution though, and given what you just said - I guess I don't owe you one.

We've all had head-aches with codecs, particularly on open source software platforms in the past - but that's pretty much exactly where it happened... in the past. Let it go man, it's just not funny any more, and the internet, and the world in general, will actually survive without another 'EVERTHING is done on the COMMAND-LINE !!! - and you can't watch videos !!!' comment about FOSS... trust me on that one.

I may have had a slight *cough* over-reaction to the comment - but trolling like that is not new, certainly not clever, now is it ? Come on...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: myself 15:45

Whoops, didn't see diodesign's comment before posting mine (that's what I get for not refreshing the comments page before posting).

My point is still valid though, even though the actual perpetrator is not the author of the article.

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Reading skills

You need to pay more attention. Stallman is notoriously cranky about the purity of his computing environment. The knot head who stole his computer stole a device that is nonstandard in the extreme - from the BIOS up. The passage you complain so piteously about was what in English lit is known as "ironic humour." So, what you really need to do is not read stuff that gets up your nose.

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One reader's biting wit and humour...

...is another reader's unnecessary twaddle.

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Hey Tim! - Re: @David Neil

Looking back I don't see you moaning at "Foxxconn Rebadging"?

Diddums...

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Re: Hey Tim! - @David Neil

Looking back I don't see you moaning at "Foxxconn Rebadging"?

Hey A.Coward - although an insult, it is at least not factually incorrect, and it was the first time i'd heard it. I don't use it, nor will I in the future I expect, but I found it amusing one time. Repetition of that would get on my fucking nerves as well. Notice a trend here ?

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Re: Reading skills

"You need to pay more attention."

Nope.

" Stallman is notoriously cranky about the purity of his computing environment. The knot head who stole his computer stole a device that is nonstandard in the extreme - from the BIOS up. "

Yep.

"The passage you complain so piteously about was what in English lit is known as "ironic humour.""

No it wasn't - it was a jibe about the pain of installing codecs at some point in time, according to the author of the comment (not the article) when they weren't saying the intention was something else.

" So, what you really need to do is not read stuff that gets up your nose."

Yeah - that's why I spend a great deal less time around here.

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An apology

When I made the initial comment that started this thread, I did so having read the whole article. It's seems from the comments that a few others, including myself, thought the article somewhat gloating or insensitive, and in that context I took the line about installing codecs from the command-line to be the 'usual' dig.

In hind-sight I now think that somewhat rash, and ultimately quite wrong.

My only excuse is perhaps that having heard almost the exact same line ad-nauseum, when meant very deliberately to be insulting or in some cases 'instructional', my tolerance has decreased somewhat.

To those that were pointing out dramatic irony, I understood quite clearly that the situation could fit into that construct, but I did not believe that was the intention - and such things are notoriously easy to justify a posteriori. I did not give the author of the line (who I initially thought the author of the article) much, if any, benefit of the doubt. To do that was wrong, even if I felt at the time it was justified.

In the end, I think I got it wrong - i've already apologised here to Anna as she had nothing to do with it, so this is to the rest - and diodesign (Drew ?) if I take you at your word.

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Re: Hey Tim! - @David Neil

Yeah, I can spot the trend as well. It's the same ole same ole. The article merely commented that the thief would have one helluva time trying to use it as a consumer toy. It's a Stallman Machine, from the bios up. Ergo, IF the thief could even get into it, there the likelyhood that whatever he finds in it will be non-standard kit in just about every fashion there is. Ergo, no watching YouTube for lack of codex that would work on such a machine. That's all there was to it. If it isn't written, it didn't happen. Yet, we'll get these raving Stallmanites raising hell about any percieved slight to their Master, who was busily punching himself in public. Oh NO! Don't look at the man behind the curtain! Jeeeeeezzzz. the lack of humor within FSF is appalling, as well as embarressing. It could happen to anyone.

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Anonymous Coward

The author's

ill concealed glee is a bit distasteful... May she too meet a similar fate.

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Re: The author's

I'll agree on the tone, but not on the punishment. Being robbed is a total shit.

Trust me.

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Callous....

"He started [...] punching himself in the head."

In his moment of need, no one offered to do it for him?

People can be so callous.

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Re: Callous....

I hope that people around you would be more generous to you.

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Not pleasant :(

I'm no fan of Stallman's - in fact I think he is borderline demented but this isn't something I'd wish on the guy.

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Re: Not pleasant :(

You have to watch the demented ones.

One anorexic loony in a loincloth and we lost a whole sub-continent !

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Re: Not pleasant :(

>lost

To be fair it's not as if we found it first.

ttfn

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Shitty thing to have happen

No matter what you may think for RMS or his ethos, being robbed is not amusing and not something I would wish on anyone.

I hope he gets a replacement netbook (or other device) and I hope he does not suffer from losing his meds etc. Actually, I hope they find his property and the thief! Or the thief just turns everything back in.

But a salient lesson to one and all:

1) Backup, backup, backup!

2) Keep important documents in a secure place (e.g. hotel safe, concealed pocket, money wallet)

3) Secure bags where possible (e.g. lock and chain, Pacsafe, trusted person/location)

4) Backup!

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Unhappy

Re: Shitty thing to have happen

... even worse is being robbed of passport while abroad. Of course this kind of thing do happen and I would guess US consulate will not delay granting him a new one. It's likely to severely disturb his travel plans, though.

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Re: Shitty thing to have happen

Abroad I always keep passport, some cash and a spare credit card in one of the those over the shoulder money belt thingies tucked well away under my clothes. Leaving your passport out of sight is negligent.

But anyway, we shouldn't be mocking another's misfortune.

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Re: Shitty thing to have happen

Totally recommend the pacsafe. I used one when I recently did some travelling solo around Australia. Especially useful if you're going to the beach, or whatnot... and especially useful when travelling solo though, gives much more peace of mind.

Being a bit paranoid about losing stuff, or damaging it, I had sealed wallets inside a waterproof money wallet for the really important things. The mesh net pacsafes aren't totally fool proof, as I worked out a way to rummage through the top part of my rucksack without taking the pacsafe off, but that's more a fault in my rusksacks design than the pacsafe. Though, I did have a lower lockable section of the main sack so I just placed the passports, etc in there if I really needed to take it off.

To add to the 'backup, backup, backup'. Always keep copies of your passports, visas, etc on you. I kept copies stored in my email, in my money wallet and at my grandparents place... backups don't apply just to computers. Having those available even as duplicates speeds up getting replacements.

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Re: Shitty thing to have happen

@AC "Always keep copies of your passports, visas, etc on you. I kept copies stored in my email, in my money wallet and at my grandparents place... backups don't apply just to computers. Having those available even as duplicates speeds up getting replacements."

I'd almost agree to that, but if travelling with someone else I would swap the copies. If one person gets robbed, the other(s) act as a back-up.

Also, never carry credit cards in the same wallet as money and other common sense precautions.

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Re: Shitty thing to have happen

5) Encrypt your disks, lock down your BIOS.

We all know the BIOS password is easily circumvented, but at least your data will be safe in most cases.

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Re: Shitty thing to have happen

5) A remotely addressable neon driver connected to the keys.

6) A remotely addressable lump of C4.

Okay okay, I can see problems with this from the get go. Still though, of all the laptops to steal, I really wouldn't want to steal one from a hacker, whatever colour their hat.

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Re: Shitty thing to have happen

>I hope he does not suffer from losing his meds etc

That's what he's like WITH the meds !!!

< whinney manc voice=on > the drugs don't work .....

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I've been through Buenos Aires airport and can confirm that if you blink you will get all your belongings stolen. I tried not to blink but know a lot of people who did.

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Anonymous Coward

Yep, we blinked and then had the deeply unpleasant experience of having to buy our passports from the bastards who had just 'found the bag' they were in.

We had an onward plane to catch and the police didn't give a shit, so no real choice.

I will never go to argentina again in my life, quite apart from being married to a paraguayan, who have a nice little chip on their shoulder about argentina (and some funny jokes about where all the dogs in Buenos Aires went in the late nineties)

Ho hum.

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Rotten thing to happen.

I have not been to Buenos Aires, but I have been to other places so riddled with pickpockets that I was tempted to put a live mousetrap in my coat pockets or bag. In one place whenever some little kid asked me the time, I told them whilst swiping my hand over my back pocket rapidly. I always connected.

They didn't get anything (except a slap on the wrist).

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I hope he has learned his lesson

He will now be buying an apple laptop and uploading all his data to the (i)cloud.

Where it's safe :)

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Re: I hope he has learned his lesson

your forgot the joke icon....there fixed!

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Re: I hope he has learned his lesson

There's no reason why he can't rsync his data to one of the FSF servers.

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Re: I hope he has learned his lesson

Real men don't backup - real men just upload their important stuff on ftp, and let the rest of the world mirror it

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Can we at least be a little bit smug?

While evangalising about open source and high level issues (and quite rightly BTW), RMS seems to have forgotten a little bit of pragmatism about security and mitigating data loss.

Lets not forget, while RMS was talking, Linus was actually doing and was also winning the PR battle (watch the last scene of "Revolution OS" for an example).

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Re: Can we at least be a little bit smug?

Never thought I'd see 'RMS' and 'pragmatism' in the same sentence, except when separated by 'has no'.

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Re: Can we at least be a little bit smug?

RMS has a long and distinguished history of doing. Much longer than Linus's. RMS in the early days did more than anyone to persuade the world free software could mean something other than useless crap on a floppy attached to a magazine.

Dammit, have I been trolled?

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Re: Can we at least be a little bit smug?

To be fair to RMS, some of the many things he did included the GCC compiler and the GPL - both of which were pretty essential to getting Linux going. On the shoulders of giants and all that...

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Re: Can we at least be a little bit smug?

RMS did have the idea, full credit for that, but Linus made it into something workable and popular. Again, I would rather admire an Engineer that an Evangelist.

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Re: Can we at least be a little bit smug?

Please don't forget about GNU Emacs.

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Re: Can we at least be a little bit smug?

Little or no engineering might have been possible without proper evangelism. And why the Harvard graduate is not an engineer? gcc and emacs?

As Linus points out himself , the story of the Linux kernel would have been very different if he did not embrace the GPL back in 1991: "best thing I ever did."

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