Living in Stallman’s World

Recently, Richard Stallman posted that we should now shun Ubuntu because it includes (in his exact words) spyware. He’s referring to the fact that the most recent (12.10) release of Ubuntu includes the Shopping Lens by default, which integrates search results from Amazon into your Dash.

Of course, this is hardly “spyware”. Such a term implies actual spying for a start. But sure, I get his point. I certainly don’t agree with the decision to make the Shopping Lens opt-out. It should have been opt-in, definitely. I’d go as far as to say that it should also be a separate lens completely and therefore would need to be invoked by the user.

But enough has been written about this and Stallman is simply adding to the noise, months after the fact.

No, the point of this post was that a thought occurred to me while reading about RMS : What must it be like to live in his world? So I’ve taken a look at his website,, and tried to relate what I read there to my personal circumstances.

It’s grim. Here’s a list of some of the things in my life which Mr Stallman would definitely object to :

  1. The operating system I wrote this on : Ubuntu.
  2. The same operating system which powers my website, my home server and my XMBC media streamer in fact.
  3. Valve’s Steam game client, to which I was recently invited to the beta of, on Ubuntu.
  4. My Amazon Kindle device and the use of the Amazon app on my Google Nexus 7.
  5. My recent support of the Olympics. Their crackdown on WIFI hotspots is unacceptable.
  6. My Harry Potter bluray collection.
  7. In fact, make that every bluray I own. Oops! That’s quite a bit of blurays.
  8. My properly secured WIFI network. We must share our WIFI, people!
  9. Coke. I don’t drink a lot of coke, but I can’t imagine my Jack Daniels without it.
  10. My children. Sorry guys, RMS says you have to go. And no, I’m not making this up.
  11. Virgin Media, be gone! You censor the web and that’s not acceptable.
  12. Facebook. And probably Twitter, but I could only find reference directly to Facebook.

On the plus-side, I don’t own any Apple products, nor ever will, so I’m spared throwing away any overpriced iToys, which is a relief. Nor do I use Skype day to day, although I have done in the past and might do so in the future if the situation demands it. You can cut the tension with a knife.

At this point, although I can’t find any reference on his website, I begin to suspect that there’s a few other things that Mr Stallman may take umbrage at. My PS3, my use of closed-source Nvidia and AMD drivers on my PCs. Perhaps my Google phone, tablet, or use of Google products generally. I really don’t know. [update ; apparently Google is okay, mostly].

I suppose, as unrealistically, almost comically, extreme as he is, this is one good thing that comes of his stance – you do start to question some of the things you might otherwise take for granted.

So, even if you don’t agree to boycott Amazon, for example, at least you now use them knowing them for what they are. Which is definitely a good thing in the long run.


footnote : Obviously there’s a few things I can agree with on that list – I’m not delighted with Virgin’s censorship of the Pirate Bay for example – but life is about balance and compromise. At least, for my sanity’s sake, MY life is.