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Interview The HaCker Webzine With Richard Stallman

Richard Stallman playing music to the butterfly.

Last week I got the opportunity to fire questions to unarguably one of the most influential and inspirational people of our time. Author of the GNU/Linux operating system, GNU Compiler, GNU debugger (GDB) and notably Emacs, Stallman launched the GNU Project in 1983 to create a free Unix-like operating system, Stallman pioneered the concept of copyleft and is the main author of several copyleft licenses including the GNU General Public License. Stallman rejected a future where he would have to sign non-disclosure agreements not to share source code or technical information with other software developers and perform other actions he considered betrayals of his principles. He chose instead to share his work with others in what he regarded as a classical spirit of collaboration. I am glad that I got the opportunity to question Stallman about free software, and I also managed to slip in a couple of security and hacker related questions.

0. What is free software?

Free software means software that respects the user’s freedom. Specifically it means that the user has four essential freedoms:

0. Freedom to run the program as you wish.

1. Freedom to study the source code, and change it so that the program does what you wish.

2. Freedom to make and distribute exact copies of the program when you wish.

3. Freedom to make and distribute exact copies of your modified versions, when you wish.

If the program doesn’t respect these freedoms, then using it puts you under the power of its developer. By moving to free software, such as the GNU/Linux system, you can live in freedom.

1. Given the current state of the Internet, do you have an opinion about the security/safety of the Internet these days? If so, what is for you the biggest threat for the Internet today?

I am not a security expert, but I think the biggest threat to Internet users comes not from the software that is installed without your knowledge, but rather from the systems and applications that you know are installed. It is a mistake to limit the term “malware” to worms that install themselves unknown to you, when proprietary software products that you know you have can be equally malicious.

Proprietary PC software such as Windows, MacOS, RealPlayer, and Flash are designed to spy on you and restrict you; the first two are known to have back doors. The same goes for the software in devices such as cell phones and e-book readers. These programs clearly qualify as malware.

If you want to be safe, the first step is to insist on freedom-respecting software; that is, free software. With free software, there is still the possibility of bugs that cause problems, but at least you don’t have to worry about malicious features deliberately imposed on you.

2. P2P, Bit torrent, free music, free content, free information. Should it all be free?

The question lumps together means of distribution such as P2P with types of works (such as music) and ideas (such as information). Those are several different questions.

When the question refers to works, it calls them “content”, a term that disparages the works: it implies that they are merely filler and the box (or site) they fill is what really matters. It reflects the attitude of a businessman who understands only market value and not artistic value. I disagree with those values so I won’t use the word that embodies them.

I believe that people should have the freedom to noncommercially redistribute exact copies of any published work. That includes music and software, and many other things. In particular you should be allowed to distribute anything through a P2P network. Laws against this are unjust, and their only ethical implication is to reduce the respect that the state deserves.

Works whose purpose is practical use, including software, recipes, educational materials, and reference works, ought to be free in the sense of the four freedoms. But I would not say the same about works of art and opinion. I think it is ok for commercial use, and modification, of works of art to be limited by a copyright system for a time such as ten years. Thus I do not say that music must be free; rather, I say it must be sharable.

3. Is there any future at all for software that isn’t free?

That depends on you! Specifically, whether you value your freedom enough to reject proprietary software. If you want to live in freedom, that’s the way. You need to escape from proprietary software that would take it away from you. The purpose of the Free Software Movement, the reason we developed GNU, is to make a place to escape to.

4. What do you think about Apple in general, and their way of pushing software to Microsoft clients?

In terms of how they treat the user’s freedom, the differences between Apple and Microsoft are minor. Both of them implement Digital Restrictions Management (see Both can install changes into the system without the user’s consent, which amounts to a gaping back door.

5. What OS has a bright future? does GNU/Linux have a bright future as a desktop client? or will it remain a toy for the geeks, like it always was?

I cannot say what will happen in the future, because the future depends on you. However, GNU/Linux is not a “toy for geeks”. There are hundreds of thousands of students in Spain and India that use it in public school, and only a fraction of them are geeks.

6. Why is free software so important today?

Free software enables a computer user to have control of what the computer does. With non-free software, the program’s developer has control over the computer, and over the user. 30 years ago, the users of computers were a small segment of society. Today, in advanced countries, most people use computers, and their lives are affected by this question of who controls what those computers do.

7. In security, what are your opinions about full-disclosure of software bugs?

I think it depends on what the bug does. If the bug puts users at risk, the best thing is to inform the users how to fix it, without saying how to exploit it. If the bug enables users to break DRM, the best thing is to inform the users so they can take advantage of it.

8. What is the biggest mistake in the design of the Internet?

That is outside my expertise, so I have nothing to say.

9. What are your ideas about hacking?

Hacking means exercising playful cleverness. A hacker is a person who is doing that or who generally likes to do that. Hacking doesn’t necessarily have to involve computers: you can hack in any medium. And when it does involve computers, it doesn’t necessarily relate to security in any way. The idea that “hacking” means “breaking security” was an error made by journalists around 1980. Since that error disparages us hackers, I will not accept it as legitimate. I refer to breaking security as “cracking” and those who do it as “crackers”.

If your question really means, what do I think about breaking security, that depends on what the cracker proceeds to do. If he proceeds to send spam or steal money, I would disapprove. On the other hand, if he leaves funny graffiti in a web site, I would probably laugh. If he anonymously publishes secrets for breaking DRM, I would cheer.

10. Do you have some words of advise to my readers who are writing software, or breaking software?

My message to software developers is this: respect the freedom of your users! If you don’t do that, your program is a trap, inviting people to trade their freedom for convenience. It would be better to develop nothing at all.

The people that typically break a program most often are its developers, when they make mistakes in trying to improve it. But if by “breaking software” you mean looking for bugs to exploit, my main message is, make sure you don’t do this to mistreat people.

Learn more about Richard Stallman:
Learn more about free software and the philosophy behind it:

setelah membaca interview ini mudah-mudahan dapat menyadarkan kita semua bahwa kita tidak harus tau semuanya, dan jangan pernah berusahan untuk menjawab hal yang tidak kita kuasai karena hal itu akan membuat kita terlihat semakin bodoh. Saat diberikan satu pertanyaan oleh Ronald, maka dengan jujur Stallman menjawab bahwa itu bukanlah keahliannya, meskipun saya yakin dia pantas untuk menjawabnya (mudah-mudahan banyak “pakar” dapat belajar dari hal ini)

bagaimana mungkin seorang yang bisa membangun sebuah OS mengaku tidak mengerti soal security..!! tidak.. tidak.. menurut saya tidak mungkin..

tidak mungkin beliau bisa mengembangkan sebua OS tampa mengenal security..

he..he..he.. ini kan hannya menurut saya..!! ( saya kan penggemar berat beliau, jadi wajar² saja saya membela beliau )

lalu bagaimana dengan bangsa ini..?

org yang tidak tahu cara menginstall sebuah OS saja di katakan pakar IT. huh… sudah lah.. stop semua ini..

Apa kata dunia.. jika para Netter tau bahwa “pakar” dari negara kita ini ternyata tidak bisa nginstall OS.

siapa sebenarnya yang salah…?

Anda² semua.. yang selalu mengutip beliau sebagai pakar IT.

Dengan tegas saya saya mengatakan..!! TIDAK PANTAS DI KATAKAN SEORANG PAKAR

STOP pembodohan bangsa..!!

sumber :


3 responses to “Interview The HaCker Webzine With Richard Stallman

  1. Kelly Buck June 19, 2008 at 6:35 am

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    The Truth About Madame Blavatsky

  2. AlexM August 16, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    Your blog is interesting!

    Keep up the good work!

  3. Sourav Roy June 9, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    Free software is an ‘ideology’ above everything. Issues like user-friendliness hardly matter. I know men who have stuck to the free software movement since 1996. There was no or little GUI back then, still these men ‘believed’ in their ideology- the ideology of empowering the masses in the digital world. One document that makes all the difference between free software and open source is the GPL. I recommend every young software engineer to read this.

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