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back to article Stallman: Ubuntu spyware makes it JUST AS BAD as Windows

Free Software Foundation founder and noted weird-beard Richard Stallman has called upon Linux advocates to reject the Ubuntu distribution, claiming the latest version contains dangerous "surveillance code." In a lengthy post to his FSF blog, the GNU Project creator slams Canonical, the company in charge of Ubuntu, for including …

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Bearded man has informed opinion

Though that doesn't mean you need to share it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bearded man has informed opinion

Are you a proponent of spyware, DRM and backdoors or you didn't read the article ?

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Re: Bearded man has informed opinion

I agree with him for the most part about Ubuntu's Amazon search integration but then he descends into his usual Stallman-Knows-Best™ hyperbole.

"Canonical does offer a way to turn the Amazon search results off – though it only did so under pressure from users – but even this isn't good enough, according to Stallman. Even if the feature were disabled by default, he says, allowing users to opt in still puts them at risk, because most won't fully understand what they're getting themselves into."

Apparently people shouldn't be allowed to opt-in to a service Stallman disagrees with because that just shows they're stupid and shouldn't be allowed to make decisions for themselves. What if I don't give a damn about Canonical knowing my searching habits and am happy to let them place Amazon advertising in my search results in order to help fund their project? I do give a damn and I won't let Canonical do it on my machines but I'm also an adult, fully capable of making informed decisions and don't need Stallman metaphorically looking over my shoulder to make sure I don't do anything out of line with his often bizarre moral code.

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Re: Bearded man has informed opinion

I am not a proponent of spyware, DRM and so on, and I agree with him. However there are people who disagree, those have different value systems which are foreign to me, but which I have to accept, as long as they don't impose them on me.

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Re: Bearded man has informed opinion

you are unfortunately confusing opt in and opt out. ;)

And of course a service that could work WITHOUT a potential opt-in will be forbidden if you don't opt-in, so you ARE paying with your identity, privacy and such.

It stops to be free, you become the product.

The people that poured code into Linux make another choice, that choice has to be respected.

If amazon search is such an amazing product, canonical should try to sell it without Ubuntu, let's see how much people want it ... won't happen, small steps of blackmail are still blackmail

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bearded man has informed opinion

Funny how he doesn't seem to be too bothered about Android and all its data gathering.

He almost seems to have different tolerance levels for free software vs commercial software.

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@AC

And what about Android?

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Devil

Re: Bearded man has informed opinion

"Canonical does offer a way to turn the Amazon search results off"

Well:

a) I was not told about it.

b) I was not told that there was a way to stop it.

c) I was entered into a contract with a third party without my knowledge or consent.

d) I was not told offered the opportunity to opt in OR opt out.

e) To add fuel to the issue, while Ubuntu is claimed to be free, and always will be, I object being traded as a pawn for revenue - this being the case, then it's not free is it.

f) And how come they have never informed me of the silent shove in, nor the opt out?

Sleazy.

It's the ethical IQ of Microsofts ribbon.

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Meh

Re: What about Android?

Stallman, IIRC, shuns all mobile phones, including android.

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Re: What about Android?

Not using mobile phone actually is a good idea at the moment. It will take lots of time to get a decent open source phone which does not have the usual problems. A bit problem is the baseband firmware, for example. If you had an open firmware there, you could get rid of the mis-features of GSM like triangulation, or stop your SIM-card from interfering with your phone.

("Triangulation" on GSM works by evaluating the timing advance data in which the base-station tells the mobile device to send its packets earlier than expected when its far away. However there's a useful flaw in this. The basestation doesn't know the actual setting of the mobile device. So if the mobile station just lies to the basestation, the basestation will have to believe it. So you can arbitrarily change the perceived distance between MS and BS. With good antennas and a map of all BS you can spoof your position to some degree.)

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Meh

Re: Bearded man has informed opinion

And this is where critical thinking comes in: the problem is that even if you opt in, you don't know *what* you're opting in to.

You don't just opt in to "Canonical gathering information", because Canonical won't gather information just to gather information and have it sit somewhere doing nothing. That data will be used for something, if it isn't already. In effect, you will be opting in to "Canonical gathering information on what programs you use, at what time, and anything they can think of that will generate them monetary profit or user base increases to effect monetary profit by either using or selling that data".

Without knowing what those products are (and even Canonical might not know that yet, they could come up with a terrible, but legal use of the data sometime in the future) you CANNOT know what you're opting in to, and offering the choice to opt in should come with a warning that's as explicitly scary as can be: "opting in to this program means you are okay with Canonical roughly knowing what you do throughout the day (sometimes knowing exactly what you do, depending on your use of this program) and gives them full permission to exploit that knowledge for any form of company gains. Once opted in, opting out will not remove the data already collected about you, your daily routines, and your behavioural preferences."

Unless someone reads you a nice long explanation of the ramifications of handing over personal day to day behavioural data in general, and relating to the technology industry specifically, your decision to opt in is based on incomplete information and a poor understanding of the ramifications of your actions. Should an OS maker be taking advantage of the fact that virtually no one understands the impact of the action when optin in? There's the crucial question: how you answer this determines, in a broad sense, whether you want to be free (in the *n*x philosophical sense) or not, and Ubuntu is currently breaking the rule that *n*x operating systems are free.

(Applications running on *n*x are, ideally, free too. However, there are plenty that aren't, and that's fine. Canonical can even make such a product themselves and then offer it as a download or even an install option, with warnings on the ramifications of installing. They don't do that. They pulled a Microsoft)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bearded man has informed opinion

Stallman is a bit short sighted. If you are using the internet, you can and are being tracked. You don't like it? Don't use the internet. End of.

If I use the modem provided by my broadband provider, they can log on to it, all for maintenance and service reasons for the good of their customers.

Email is mostly being sent unencrypted to the next email replay service. Sure enough, you can encrypt the email stream to that mail relay, but what happens on that email relay and beyond, you never know.

Your iPhone or Android can track you too : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPhone#Secret_tracking

Even Tor users can be tracked by monitoring the entry and exit nodes and the encryption keys can be used to decrypt traffic.

But even if you encrypt and tunnel to your heart's content, you will still get all those cookies from the ad networks that profile and send you advertisements (what is this on El Reg's website: <embed src="http://pagead2.googlesyndication.com :-) )

If now Stallman writes about that search feature in Ubuntu then either he doesn't now how to fill in bad-sites.acl on his outbound proxy server, or he doesn't know how to compartmentalize his desktop OS or he simply wants to satisfy his desire for attention and fame by writing something punchy.

Fingerpointing is one thing, Mr Stallman, but making things better does require skill. Did you set up a public proxy server? Did you create a new internet layer protocol which provides security and anonymity? Did you create the router firmware for it?

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Holmes

Re: Bearded man has informed opinion

@Christian Berger

However there are people who disagree, those have different value systems which are foreign to me, but which I have to accept, as long as they don't impose them on me.

So who forced you to read the article Christian?.

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Big Brother

Re: What about Android?

As someone who loves Android, I also find the growing uncritical Google fanboyism rather worrying.

Google are allowed to get away with mass spying which other companies without a fanboy following would not have a chance at doing.

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WTF?

Re: Bearded man has informed opinion

"If I use the modem provided by my broadband provider, they can log on to it, all for maintenance and service reasons for the good of their customers."

you let your ISP log onto your CPE? really?

Or do you not own it and plug a router into said device?

every ISP here offers the router with a modem built in device here that you pay for up front at some 'discounted' rate when you join up. Then you get a branded box with stuff pre-loaded, but its yours and they won't go logging into it.

Fair game if its their kit but I'd never let any ISP touch my gear, for optimisations or otherwise. If they feel the need to optimise they can drop me a line, they have my email address after all.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: what programs you use, at what time

They already collect that.

$ apt-cache show popularity-contest

...

The popularity-contest package sets up a cron job that will

periodically anonymously submit to the Ubuntu developers

statistics about the most used Ubuntu packages on this system.

.

This information helps us making decisions such as which packages

should go on the first CD. It also lets us improve future versions

of Ubuntu so that the most popular packages are the ones which

are installed automatically for new users.

Homepage: http://popcon.ubuntu.com/

It is a *required* dependency of the ubuntu-standard package, which means you get it on every Ubuntu install (desktop or server) and can't uninstall it. However, for the time being at least, it is disabled by default in /etc/popularity-contest.conf.

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Linux

Re: Bearded man has informed opinion

> Apparently people shouldn't be allowed to opt-in to a service Stallman disagrees

Except that is NOT what is happening here.

Something sinister is being installed by default. The clueless and the unwary won't be aware of what's going on here. They will be spied on without their knowledge or consent. That is why the parallels to Microsoft are being drawn here. This is precisely the sort of thing you expect from Microsoft or some random bit of Windows shareware.

It's an OS level default rather than something that requires a "spy on me please" button.

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Re: Bearded man has informed opinion

"Except that is NOT what is happening here."

I didn't say that was what was happening here. I was getting pissed off at Stallman for saying that the system shouldn't be allowed to exist even if Canonical made it entirely opt-in and users were actively choosing to use it (i.e. the opposite of what is happening now). Such a position has nothing to do with protecting users and everything to do with forcing his views on to everyone else.

I don't know about you but I'm sick of having my options (in relation to computing) and freedoms (in relation to life in general) whittled away under the pretence of protecting the 'stupid people'. If a company offers an opt-in service and states in plain English before sign-up what data it will collect from you and you sign-up without reading anything, then you've got nobody but yourself to blame if you later realise it has been collecting more data than you are comfortable with.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bearded man has informed opinion

Why the heck did you run the program in the first place? Pick snother if it bothers you!

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Facepalm

Re: Bearded man has informed opinion

Yet you voluntarily ran software you didn't have to run. Get a mirror, mate.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bearded man has informed opinion

I actually would not have minded so much if it had of been offered, as an opt in.

I mean seriously I have been using this generally brilliant software, for a long time and have paid fuck all for almost any of it. I am generally a retread short of a new pair of shoes...

Yes I have volunteered lots of time fighting like cats and dogs with the Ubuntu crew and their shitty politically correct bullshit, their forums, the arselicking admins, the bugzilla forums that share your email with the world and it's dog etc., etc., etc., and especially with Open Office / Office Libre and their lack of font embedding etc.., etc., etc.,

I do tend to hate the clueless and vacant that the open door policy to volunteers and what it attracts...

But I'd also like to contribute to many things and a few million people taking a few dollars over a few years, and adding it to the coffers of Ubuntu etc., is quite a fair trade off.

More so because it shits people off in Microsoft, and I get a great OS (Xubuntu thankyou) and Microsoft gets fuck all.

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Vic
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Re: Bearded man has informed opinion

> I actually would not have minded so much if it had of been offered, as an opt in.

The Fedora installer gives you smolt, and asks you to volunteer some information about your setup.

The default condition is off - I turn it on for every installation I do that I expect to last.

This is the thing with data gathering - it's not, of itself, evil. It is helping yourself to other people's data that is.

Vic.

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Linux

Fingerpointing

To the person who posted this.

" Fingerpointing is one thing, Mr Stallman, but making things better does require skill. Did you set up a public proxy server? Did you create a new internet layer protocol which provides security and anonymity? Did you create the router firmware for it?"

You are an ASS!

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Thumb Up

He's right, as usual.

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Anonymous Coward

He might be right this time, though it hardly seems a big deal, but when has he been right before? Isn't Stallman the one who doesn't use the internet or something weird, so people can't spy on him?

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Anonymous Coward

> [...] when has he been right before?

rms is usually very careful with his wording. A possible or probable problem not manifesting doesn't mean "not right". For some people it might be more important that a problem will not happen than to be "right" (about an actually undesired possibility).

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JDX
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This is a great opportunity to gauge the current Reg reader demographic... "RMS is right as usual". Other than actual Linux mailing lists, I can't recall such staunch pro-FOSS bias on even the pure techy forums I visit.

It's quite interesting... UK software people are clearly not uber-Linux fans as a rule so how has El Reg become such a beacon for them? Serious (non trolling) discussion... for those long-term members has it always been a similar make-up or has it slowly become more and more that way over the years? Because it's surely not the case the articles are of the same mindset as the member-base... articles and authors are fairly evenly split between liking MS, Apple and Google and NOT liking them.

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Trollface

times are a changing

The newer generation has had a chance to grown up on Linux and not exclusively on Microsoft as some of us older people. Now that the kids don't have to get a linux cd off a book or magazine or have to compile in all the device drivers for their computer or worry about getting the timings right on their X Server to avoid fubaring their monitor or getting on the internet with the dreaded winmodem (rated up there with changing out a motor in a car for many) its an easier world to get into. Not everyone is some hack MCSE praying they can make it to retirement before they ever have to use the command line or linux.

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Anonymous Coward

@skelband: I believe you meant...

"He's right this time, even though he's mentally ill."

Much better correspondence with reality now, don't you think?

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Reg demographic?

This is a great opportunity to gauge the current Reg reader demographic... "RMS is right as usual". Other than actual Linux mailing lists, I can't recall such staunch pro-FOSS bias on even the pure techy forums I visit.

I think that RMS actually has some Windows users supporting him because of his adherence to principles. I agree that Reg articles and authors are fairly evenly distributed among operating systems. However, regarding the Reg demographic, I'm not convinced that we're seeing "staunch pro-FOSS" here. I think we are seeing a split between those who think that principles are important, and those don't mind letting some things slide.

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@JDX

"articles and authors are fairly evenly split between liking MS, Apple and Google and NOT liking them."

I am seriously offended, sir. I hate all those companies equally.

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He's right as usual...

Stallman is not a man I'd like to be stuck in a lift with.

However while I usually disagree completely with his spoutings, or find them a load of hyperbollocks, at the time of issue some time, often years later, I find myself having come to the same conclusion.

It doesn’t mean he's always right but its worth getting to grips with his ravings and taking the threats he sees in others activities to their logical and ludicrous conclusions as, despite your faith in humanity, business will find a way to go a step further down the path away from freedom than even you could imagine.

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Anonymous Coward

not "as usual"

RMS need a RMS-to-human-beings interface in the form of a spokesperson.

He tends to screw up a good argument with almost religious BS. He is right insofar that Canonical should not have put that in as a default that is actually not easy to kill off - that is dangerously close to a breach of Data Protection laws and in general a breach of people's right to privacy. That is disappointing, and was IMHO actually a tad unexpected from Ubuntu (and teh best demonstrator it lost touch with its USERS, but I digress).

Where he is NOT right is that Canonical should not offer it at all. If Canonical had said outright "look, we have this Amazon offer which brings us some revenue for more Linux work" it would have left it up to users to support them or not, and I can see a number of people then using it WILFULLY - much more positive in every aspect.

I don't think RMS has the right to *prescribe* as he tends to do, he is welcome to advise but he publicises his opinions usually in a way that makes it appear he thinks he's just descended from the mountain with them inscribed in stone tablets, speaking with foaming, spittle flecked fervour. Having seen some video of him in presentations, I am not sure this is the man himself, but he sure expresses himself that way so maybe an interpreter would help. I would really like him to get the credit he deserves (Linux would not be where it was today without the whole GNU component) but he does make it hard to like him, and sadly, awards are rarely handed out objectively.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Stallman is not a man I'd like to be stuck in a lift with.

Why not? If you get stuck for a long time and get really, really hungry you can eat whatever he stores in his feet.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I25UeVXrEHQ

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Anonymous Coward

He sees things in black and white it seems. There are shades of grey and you can't really be polarised.

Why doesn't he preach about open and free hardware? why doesn't he think companies should be able to run off x86 clones without any patent disputes?

If anything it is Intel who he needs to be critical of.

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Pint

"pro-FOSS bias and the pure techy forums.

Any list of those pure and no-FOSS forums you visit that you could share with us.

What is your problem actually, would you like the Reg to check in advance what opinions those who read and posts on the Reg. I like the Reg because I have this feeling that they are not as forced to obey big money as some others.

Some posts are rubbish (including some of mine) some are what ever but basically the Reg is not flooded bye shit.

As for FOSS it is just a matter of fact, like it, use it or hate it, so what, if you cannot accept that people might have different opinions to yours then you have no right to express your opinions either.

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@Trevor_Pott

"

"articles and authors are fairly evenly split between liking MS, Apple and Google and NOT liking them."

I am seriously offended, sir. I hate all those companies equally."

Do you hate them enough to not use their products? In which case how do you get by in IT world?

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Gold badge

Re: @Trevor_Pott

Hate is probably the wrong word. "Distrust immensely," perhaps. "Am exceptionally sceptical of" is closer to. "Refuse to give them the benefit of the doubt" is the net result. These companies must prove themselves to me each and every time. Each product I use must have its value and ROI proven, the TCO over a 6 year investment period shown to be better than that of alternatives.

Unlike my fanboy brethren, I don't simply accept whatever bilge spews forth from the marketing departments of these companies. I don't pick one or more and devote my sense of self worth to how the companies are doing. I treat them like what they are: legally protected, powerful sociopaths who will ruin me without hesitation if there is the possibility that doing so will increase shareholder value.

These are not nice companies. They are not run by nice people. They are engines for taking your money – and min, and his and hers – and giving it to those who already have more than enough. I use their products as little as possible. I ensure that if I do use their products I have a way out; a means to port my data and my workflow elsewhere at a moment's notice. I actively put my own time, effort and research – and invest corporate funds – into ensuring that I can live without them, if need be.

When and where they offer the best available solution, I will use them. The very narrow offering that I deem to be the best of what's available. I do however assign value to "not being locked in," as well as to "not investing in a product likely to be fractured along feature lines into multiple products." So it's a balancing act; finding what's best not because a corporate whitepaper tells me that "best practices" are to invest my heart, soul and company into a stack of products from a single vendor…but doing what's actually best for me and my clients.

So yes, I hate these companies equally. I don't trust them. I may be "forced" into using them in certain circumstances, but everything they say is taken with great big heaping dump trucks full of NaCl.

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Boffin

Re: Stallman is not a man I'd like to be stuck in a lift with.

"Why not? If you get stuck for a long time and get really, really hungry you can eat whatever he stores in his feet."

That link should come with a "Cannot unsee" warning.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Stallman is not a man I'd like to be stuck in a lift with.

It reminds me of a Martin Perscheid cartoon of plane crash survivors who had taken to cannibalism. The caption read: "As a vegan, Marie had to survive by finding foot fungus". I'll leave you with that picture..

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@JDX

I'd say selection bias. The upvotes for the pro-RMS comments are due to a predeliction of people who follow the religion to be zealous about it. GPL people care enough to upvote that comment; non-GPL or anti-GPL people don't.

The existence of selection bias makes it hard to accurately gauge the demographic from the comments section. But the upvotes obviously prove the presence of a pro-GPL/RMS contingent which was either absent or less active a few years ago.

As for "pro-FOSS", that could mean pro-BSD and anti-RMS. FOSS is a rather wooly term and I'm not sure anyone is *against* having open-source software available :)

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Vic
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Re: He's right as usual...

> Stallman is not a man I'd like to be stuck in a lift with.

RMS is someone I'd like to buy a beer for - but I probably wouldn't stick around to drink one with him[1].

I've slated him on a few occasions over the years. To date, every time I've disagreed with him, I've had to change my mind later. He might not be the world's greatest PR droid, but he knows what he's talking about...

Vic.

[1] That's a lie, actually. I like beer.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: He's right as usual...

"Stallman is not a man I'd like to be stuck in a lift with."

Presumably, you too have experienced his interesting approach to personal hygiene, then?

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WTF?

I agree he is right that what Canonical did was bad, etc., but as someone mentioned above, he does not need to be a condescending paternalistic douche about it.

"Even if the feature were disabled by default, he says, allowing users to opt in still puts them at risk, because most won't fully understand what they're getting themselves into."

Don't take me wrong, I'm a fan of RMS and his work, but even if he's right that most people are too stupid to be discerning about this, no one has appointed him or anyone else the guardian of the innocent of the world, last I looked. If grown ups are not allowed to take responsibility for their own choices, then the world RMS wants (and I do too) will never come.

And, anyway, I suspect that whomever is too thick to understand what opting in to the Amazon search means is also very unlikely to come across it to even start wondering if it's a good idea, so opting in would not be that much of a big deal. Too bad it's still opt out.

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Facepalm

"Why doesn't he preach about open and free hardware?"

If you had been paying attention you would have noted that he does.

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Meh

@JDX

This is a great opportunity to gauge the current Reg reader demographic...

Err... no. It's a great opportunity to gauge the demographic of those who are willing to read 174 comments on a Stallman story. Nothing to see here.

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Anonymous Coward

how has El Reg become such a beacon for them?

What the bastion if not home planet of angry opinionated trolls??? Surely you are not serious.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @Trevor_Pott

"These are not nice companies."

I don't disagree, however you then say...

"They are not run by nice people.."

Whilst I am certainly no fan of Microsoft, I do believe that ex Microsoft Employee Number 1, one William Henry "Bill" Gates III, is a somewhat charitable chap having given away at least $30 billion to charitable causes etc. with an awful lot still to dispose of.

Whatever I may have thought of him in his role a businessman I would say that his charitable nature qualifies him as a 'nice person'.

Like I say, no supporter of Microsoft here. But kudos to Bill Gates for being a "nice person" or if your prefer, a 'decent bloke'! (Now I'd like to see more in his position do the same).

Finally, you also stated, "They are engines for taking your money – and min, and his and hers – and giving it to those who already have more than enough."

Of course, it goes without saying that personal enrichment of the monetary kind is the prime goal of capitalism. How else would you have a capitalism work Trevor?

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Silver badge

You can be stauch pro-FOSS, and still disagree with the statement "RMS is right as usual".

In this case, I agree that he is right, but on a lot of things I disagree vehemently with him, particularly over GPL.

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