Wednesday, August 10, 2022

On the Fight for Software Liberty

RMS writes in Why Open Source Misses the Point of Free Software:

Sometimes [developers of proprietary software] produce a program that is powerful and reliable, even though it does not respect the users' freedom. Free software activists and open source enthusiasts will react very differently to that.

A pure open source enthusiast, one that is not at all influenced by the ideals of free software, will say, “I am surprised you were able to make the program work so well without using [the Open Source] development model, but you did. How can I get a copy?” This attitude will reward schemes that take away our freedom, leading to its loss.

The free software activist will say, “Your program is very attractive, but I value my freedom more. So I reject your program. I will get my work done some other way, and support a project to develop a free replacement.” If we value our freedom, we can act to maintain and defend it.

The last sentence is crucial, and yet RMS fails to convey the import: "we can act", sure, but to "maintain and defend" freedom one must fight for it.

In a 2002 interview, RMS states:

[W]e need to think about right and wrong in making our decisions...

Every decision, every time, we must choose the path that defends freedom and liberty.

Proprietary software aims to maximize control. Open source software aims to maximize distribution. Neither aims to maintain liberty, because neither made their first decisions around user freedom: the right to determine their use of software, not to be dictated by the software's regime.

Every right conveys a freedom, and every right requires a responsibility. Your responsibility, to yourself, your family, and your community, is to fight for your freedom with every choice.

This is all easy to say and difficult to do, once accustomed to convenience or the illusion of control. For example, I write this now on a MacOS using Safari. Google Fiber provides my Internet. My car is computer controlled, and I have no idea how that software operates. My phone is Android, Google again. I choose these because they're functional for my needs, I choose to work within the features they offer, and I can afford them. But I am beholden to them.

In Who does that server really serve?, RMS writes:

[P]ower is something we must resist.

From awareness comes suspicion and from suspicion comes resistence.

Everyone will have their own journey along the path, but I encourage readers to start by raising their own awareness to the software around them that holds power over them. Then to begin by questioning whether that power is something you want to give away. If not, consider how you begin your own resistance and fight toward a future where all software is under your control.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

rm != rg

I use ripgrep, rg. It's like recursive grep, only 100x better.

Today, I had this session:

$ rm pattern
rm: pattern: No such file or directory
$ rg pattern

See that? I meant to type "rg pattern" the first time, but typed "rm pattern". Luckily no harm was done in this case. But what if I had typed "rm tod*", wanting to search for the string "to" followed by zero or more "d"? Well, I might just blow away my todo file, since it matches the glob tod*. And then I'd be sad.

I'm not sure if the ergomomics of rg as a command name have come up before, but this scary close encounter has me thinking. Maybe I should do this sly manuever, as suggested by a colleague: alias ag=rg.

I don't know. I think I'm tempted more so to make rm with its dangerous side effects harder to invoke. Like so:

alias remove=rm
rm() {
  echo "If you want to destroy a file, use remove."
  echo "If you want to find a file, use rg."

What do you think?

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Friday, September 8, 2017

Choosing the first available program from list of options

GNU tar accepts an external program to perform compression, via the option --use-compress-program. I'd normally want pigz if it's available, but if not, fallback to gzip. Is there a compact way to get represent this? Yes!
which --skip-alias --skip-functions pigz gzip 2>/dev/null | head -1
GNU which accepts multiple arguments, printing out the resolution for each as they're found or an error if not. GNU which also allows finding only full-fledged binaries, not aliases or functions. This is exactly what we want: list the paths to these programs, in the order I gave, then pluck the first one.