Smartphones Have Arrived, But Not for Richard Stallman

by Sam Dean - Mar. 16, 2011Comments (3)

Enthusiasm for smartphones seems to know no bounds these days, with some people even pronouncing that they will replace our computers and laptops altogether. However, free software pundit and president of the Free Software Foundation Richard Stallman apparently sees them as threatening. In a new interview, he blasts smartphones and seems not to embrace the trend toward mobile technology at all. That's hardly the direction that open source technology is headed in, though.

Stallman, known for years of opposition to proprietary software, and creator of the GNU operating system, tells Network World:

"I don't have a cell phone. I won't carry a cell phone. It's Stalin's dream. Cell phones are tools of Big Brother. I'm not going to carry a tracking device that records where I go all the time, and I'm not going to carry a surveillance device that can be turned on to eavesdrop."

Geez. Aside from the fact that there are easy ways to use smartphones without running the risk of surveillance, these comments reflect little connection to some of the most important technology trends. Stallman does give the Android OS some nods in the Network World interview, but only the third-party version where all proprietary software is taken out:

"It just recently became possible to run some very widely used phones with free software. There's a version of Android called Replicant that can run on the HTC Dream phone without proprietary software, except in the U.S. In the U.S., as of a few weeks ago there was still a problem in some dialing library, although it worked in Europe. By now, maybe it works. Maybe it doesn't. I don't know."

Smartphones and other mobile devices with small form factors are an inevitable product of the downsizing of technology components that has continued from mainframes, to personal computers, to today's pocket-sized gadgets. That trend won't stop, and the free software movement and world of open source shouldn't oppose the trend. 

Even if you agree that smartphones imply lack of privacy and vulnerability to surveillance, the right path forward is to develop secure ways to use mobile devices, instead of writing them off altogether. Ironically, Network World reports that Stallman did his interview while talking on a cell phone--apparently a friend's. That's proof enough that writing mobile technology off is a questionable plan. 



Randy Clark uses OStatic to support Open Source, ask and answer questions and stay informed. What about you?



3 Comments
 

It's about proprietarism. A computing device running software that's not free can do things you'll never know. With free software, the code can be analized by people and be subject to critics if some form of malicious code is there. If you let proprietary software in your life by default, you'll just support a future where companies control your devices at will. You'll be no longer in real control of your device.


0 Votes

it doesn't matter if the cell phone runs completely on free software, it still must be communicating with cell towers and therefor you're getting tracked, and in the EU, where you've been must be saved at least six months*, so the state always knows where you have been, and who else have been there.


*) in sweden for example this was supposed to be made into law yesterday, but the commies, the greens and the nationalists stopped it, much to he dismay of the socialdemocrats, the conservatives and the _liberals_.


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> Aside from the fact that there are easy ways to use

> smartphones without running the risk of surveillance ...


... which are these, aside from removing the battery?


> ... these comments reflect little connection to some

> of the most important technology trends.


... what do you mean with "connection"? One can very

well be "connected" ('informed' is a better word) about

technological developments without approving of them.

Yours is an argument typical of uncritical, conformist

fanboyism ... it exists, therefore I love it. Stupid, really.


> the right path forward is to develop secure ways to

> use mobile devices, instead of writing them off

> altogether.


... yes, that makes sense. But what can you do when

surveillance is inherently built-in this a technology?

Even if something like tor becomes available for such

networks, I doubt there will be many who make use

of it. The vast majority will unbox their latest gadget,

charge the battery and begin to use it ... and as RMS

rightly points out, this is the wet dream of all those

who have a vested interest in surveillance, like the

state, corporations and other dubious organizations.


Really, Sam, you are too uncritical of the serious risks

that come with such new technologies. Just because

you love this stuff doesn't mean it's good for you or

anybody else. I'd also wish people like you would stop

sneering at RMS, who has done more for the greater

common good than any of those who are making fun

of him, some of whom are even actively engaged in

undermining and dismantling the achievements of

the past 20+ years.


0 Votes
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