Ask Richard Stallman anything!


Well, within reason. In a few days we're going to meet up with the great man, the founder of the GNU project and free software movement as we know it. Never one to mince his words, RMS has strong views on software freedom and has campaigned rigourously to stop us being locked into a world of proprietary code and DRM.

We'd love to put a selection of your questions to Richard, so please drop them into the comments. We'll pick the best and print his responses in a forthcoming issue of Linux Format. Fire away!

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Your comments

A couple of questions I'd love to ask

Do you feel that the goals of the FSF have changed since it was originally founded, and do you feel that we still have some way to go to meet those original goals and ideals.

How do you think that free and open source software can keep up, compete and most importantly maintain the principles of freedom in a world where, increasingly, both software and data are moving into the "cloud"

Call it simpley Linux, no

Call it simpley Linux, no GNU/, to annoy him.

What's the BFD?

Obviously you need to ask Richard Stallman, "what's the BFD?"


You could ask him if the Grizzly Adams beard really helps with the whole "Linux geek" theme.

You should say:

"Pay no attentention to the PDP-11 behind the console"

Just to make him laugh :)

And avoid saying just Linux if you're referring to the system in whole. Unless you want to take that discussion with him...

And make him show you some dance moves!

One more thing...

I think you should get Mike and RMS to do a duet of the software freedom song :)


What is his opinion on the safety of VP8, since the algorithms are very similar to h264 and probably are covered by some patents. What are the dangers of using it now (to hold the original/only copy) assuming it'll be attacked with patents in a year or two.

can u ask him which is his

can u ask him which is his favourite edition of windows?


Good God!! Have you lost your mind

@Anonymous Richard

Well it was that or Pink Ponies :P

Ask Richard Stallman anything!

do you still do any programming at all? in what projects?

With the myriad of non-GNU

With the myriad of non-GNU software that ships with most distros today, is it still fair to insist on calling it GNU/Linux, rather than KDE/Linux or some such? Particularly with so much included software being unaffiiated with an organization.

Commercial free software

The software freedoms you stand for are well-respected by the libertarian and academics, but less so by commercial software vendors, and as such, free software still misses out on some great software - for example, by adobe. Do you see free software and commercial interests combining in new ways for the future, aside from funding by donations, service or advertising?


Ever thought of going to the barber and getting a decent haircut and shave?


1. What have been the FSF's greatest successes in recent years?

2. Does it depress you that so many companies, hardware manufacturers in particular, take so much from free software but give nothing back?

3. What would it take for hardware manufacturers to support Linux as much as they support Windows? Will that day ever come?

4. Do you regret the GPLv3 furore? How future-proof is the GPLv3?

5. Do you ever feel like you do a thankless job?

6. Do you think it's important for providers of major distros contribute as much back to the kernel as possible?

7. Is a world of free software only - no proprietary software - really feasible?

8. Do Apple suck or what?


I would like to know your general opinion on the other operating systems floating around such as Plan 9, ReactOS, Haiku and ect...

Do any of these systems have the potential to pose a threat to GNU/Linux?

Do you approve of these operating systems as long as they are opensource?


What current functional(**) projects do you personally find interesting?

(**) i.e. ones that are building a specific package or tool.

And thanks for emacs!

Greater appeal?

Do you think enough is being done to make open software appeal to the younger generation and to make them really care about the principles rather than just functionality / design?

And if not, how would you set about to change this?

Another unrelated question...

Why keep Stephen Fry as a mascot for GNU when from what I've seen of him, seems to be more of an advocate to Apple? And couldn't other celebrities / notable people be used to help spread the word?

Rise of App Stores preventing Free Software

As more and more people use smart phones as their main computing platform, how does this affect Free Software? Please explain how it relates to the core OS and app stores like the Apple App Store and Microsoft store that bar Free Software from being included.


What the fuck does wtf mean?

Cult of Personality

Dear Mr Stallman.

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates/Steve Ballmer have become well known as figureheads for Apple and Microsoft. You are well known in the FOSS community but perhaps less-so throughout the rest of the computer-using community. Do you feel that FOSS projects need a globally recognisable individual to champion the cause, or do you feel that it can win out eventually on merit, rather than a cult of personality?

Lots of Love
The Sultan of Swing (not real name)
(Age 31.6)

Free Software as a business?

It is well known that you are vehemently opposed to proprietary software and the industry based around it, but are you supportive of free software as a business, wherein a user can pay for customer support or order a CD (including source code) by mail?

What is your opinion on the

What is your opinion on the fact that ubuntu is getting paid software in the software centre eg. Scrivener? And don't you think it removes users freedom to do what they want with their operating system and hardware to say that they cannot use paid and proprietary software?

What do you expect to be the

What do you expect to be the biggest challenges for free software in the coming years, and what can the free software community do?

Mr. Stallman, Is Ubuntu good

Mr. Stallman,

Is Ubuntu good for the GNU/Linux community?

Seriously, are we really

Seriously, are we really still that obsessed with what we're calling the operating system? IT'S JUST A NAME. What if I want to call it CAN OF SOUP or BUCKET OF CHICKEN. Who cares?

I respect FSF, but this stubbornness is annoying and alienating beyond words. Donate to FSF? Maybe when you CHILL OUT.

Mr. RMS, if bill gates told

Mr. RMS, if bill gates told u he will use ONLY open/free software in microsoft under one condition, that u shave ur beard! will u do it?

Just thank him

For all he does that frustrates people he has done a lot of good work too, without him you could argue there would be no GPL which has in recent years defended free software from legal attacks.

While I may not share all of his views he is a great man and deserves some respect and gratitude.

Just thank him for all he has invested, personally and professionally to give us the freedoms we do have now.

open source tools bloated?

I'd like him to comment on whether he things some OSS tools are bloated (i.e. too many "cooks" changing the "recipe") using GCC and its ilk as a query model.

Over looked

Richard Stallman, You have made a lot of great contributions to the GNU/Linux operating system, gcc, gdb, Emacs etc etc. However most credit (or should I say publicity) goes to Linus and the Linux kernel. Do you feel that you and your contributions have been over shadowed and not given the recognition they clearly deserve.

Why GNU/Linux

GNU is a great set of applications that are included with most linux distros, hence GNU/Linux. However the GNU applications are not a requirement of the linux kernel their are other alternatives. Could you explain why all linux distros should be called GNU/Linux?


What is his opinion on microblogging, like, and Twitter? Is it a problematic to use Twitter because it's proprietary?

How to get my university to use GNU/Linux

I recently approached the vice chancellor at my university in regards the absence of free software at my campus, the vice chancellor did not seem remotely interested in discussing the matter any further. How should i go about pitching GNU/Linux to my university?

Potential question

How concerned do you feel about the way free software is being ruthlessly exploited by hardware and software manufacturers to their own personal gains, in a way that is detrimental to the community. Do you feel this is just a temporary "fad", or is it something you are worried about?

Thank you, questions and requests

A quick thank you as said above, for fighting for our right even though not appreciated enough.

I would like the interview to be carried out partly in spanish: I have noticed Stallman's spanish is really good. ;) maybe fez can do some of it? Just one or two questions?

Do you still get time to do some AI work? If not, do you miss it?

I have recently used the Trisquel distribution that FSF shows as example in their web page. I was impressed by two things: a) the amount of things that I was using that where proprietary b) the amount of things I found I did not need and that I could work fairly well without most of it or with free alternatives. I'm fairly new to the linux comunity (I still depend on windows for work) but I have found ubuntu to be a good starting point. I have informed myself on fsf and fsfe I even try to help out in fsfe transtlations but I still use ubuntu at home. From your ethical stanpoint: and please don't be afraid to call things as they are. Would you say ubuntu and other "easy to use" linux distributions are a good stepping stone or should we jump right in to gsense, trisquel, etc?

I've got more questions but I'll need to continue later.

About robotisation

Soon the robotisation will be as usual as software is today: robots in our houses, in our offices, streets, maybe personal robots, doing some works instead of people. Big companies that will produce and sell this will try control their products (i.e. robots). Do you think at that moment there will arise a really big and serious question about who really must control the technology?... the question that free software movement already today rise?...

The Practicalities Of Free Software Activism

I understand Richard would like all software to be free eventually, but clearly this will take time. I would be interested to know what Richard believes are appropriate short term goals as a preliminary stage in working towards more fundamental change in the long term.

Also what things can the average person who lacks the skills to write software themselves do to help the Free Software Movement?

A couple of questions

Given the behavior of Oracle, is Java entering the same state as C#, i.e., using Free implementations of the Java Runtime Environment and Java Development Kit is ethical but new developments should avoid Java because their work may be lost after a patent suit.

The fight of the FSF (and the FSFLA) against proprietary firmwares (in the Linux kernel) relies on the idea that the user is denied some freedoms. However, that leads the FSF to promoting devices that do not load any firmware from the kernel, i.e., the firmware already is the device. How come the user has more freedom in this situation? Furthermore I have already seen several Trisquel's users that really wanted to be free and bought new hardware (hence an ecological issue) that did not work either with Linux-libre. Indeed, it may be very hard to know the included chipset (typically in Wifi cards) before testing the device.

Its time Debian was given more recognition...

Now that Debian has removed non-free blobs from the default kernel in 'Squeeze' there is only one thing holding it back from being considered a fully free Gnu/Linux distribution. That is the problem of Debian having a repository of non-free software.

Those who do not use this repository should now be considered as using a FSF recommended distro. Debian dwarfs all the other recommended Free distributions and it would be a huge fillip for a hard working community to get the backing of RMS.

What does he think of this?

Maybe not to Stallman

But more to you guys in LXF...

I kinda heard in one of your podcasts that your parent company made you use MACs, is this true? Did Stallman just walk into an office filled with apple hardware? Is he OK?

What hardware does he use?

I just wanted to know what mobile phone, laptop, netbook, etc he uses? does he buy anything off the shelf and and leave it as it is? If so... who is his dealer?

And I've registered (sorry for previous comments)

A Question for Mister Stallman

With all its woo ha and whoopees, and advancements towards more scientific growth, how is it possible to spend all this time on GNU, and still nobody has spent enough time around figuring out how to make a deodorant last past noon?

Where do your priorities lie sir?

Question for Richard

I'd like you to ask Richard:

What do you feel are the biggest obstacles facing the free software movement at the moment?

tuxradar website

When I visit the tuxradar website I get a message saying "additional plugins are required to display all the media on this page" (ie. flash). Does Richard think tuxradar should set more of an example by having a website which does not use flash or is it okay as long as visitors use the free equivalent to Adobe Flash called Gnash?


From his visit there, which way does he see Cuba going, in computing or otherwise?

Software as a Service and the GPL

Does the Free Software Foundation have any plans to further promote or extend the usage of the Affero GPL to combat the SaaS problem, or is it an unwinnable war?

Some questions

Should educational software houses be forced to port software to GNU Linux?

Should educational establishments be forced to use GNU Linux?

Try and get him to go mental

Maybe start with "Why do you love Open Source so much?" and work from there.

How do you see so far ahead?

Mr. Stallman,

While most of the GNU/Linux press coverage and attention goes to individual corporations' distributions, you appear to be one of the most accurate bell-weathers of the computing age with regards to individual rights.

How do you "see" so far ahead, with regards to the industry and user rights?

It seems, according to what information I have been able to gather, that you have taken the computing-activist message, and applied it to other activist areas and causes.

Have you changed your activities to being predominately a computing/human rights activist, or are you still working to advance the art of programing directly?

@Adrian Malacoda (not verified) - March 7, 2011 @ 12:56am

Thanks for that!

Did he hear about the linux distribution called Asturix done by a 15year old? (started when he was 9 years old)This distro seems to be going up on distowatch
I don't know if it's within the software freedom relaim but say it isn't:

Is it a good thing? Is it progress? does making people aware of opensoftware make them also aware of free software?

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