— Ian Connolly (@IanConnolly) February 5, 2013
It was a wide ranging lesson in Operating Systems, coding, collaboration and citizenship.
I felt both inspired and uncomfortable.
I was uncomfortable at a hall full of young computer scientists, who will mainly work with proprietary software and some of who will make a lot of money…listening attentively to an evangelist of coding purity.
Stallman was engaging and made his case well for the study, modification and redistribution of free software.
I was uncomfortable tweeting the event from my walled-garden device.
I was uncomfortable listening to the security vulnerabilities I leave myself open to everyday, via both the hardware and software I use.
His insights into Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) were particularly interesting – as the Defective by Design site says
” When a program doesn’t let you share a song, read an ebook on another device, or play a game without an internet connection, you are being restricted by DRM. In other words, DRM creates a damaged good. It prevents you from doing what would normally be possible if it wasn’t there, and this is creating a dangerous situation for freedom, privacy and censorship.”
Stallman was inspiring in asking college students to work harder on their courses by using Free Software in their projects, even if it takes more time.
He was also attentive to children who are Natural Born Programmers and who come to realize this at ages ten to thirteen. Stallman believes that if the educational system introduces them to proprietary secret bodies of knowledge, that the system fails them.
He makes a cogent case in Why Schools Should Exclusively Use Free Software
“What schools should refuse to do is teach dependence. Those corporations offer free samples to schools for the same reason tobacco companies distribute free cigarettes to minors: to get children addicted. They will not give discounts to these students once they’ve grown up and graduated.”
Stallman has some important reminders for teachers, both at primary and secondary level here in Ireland.
We do introduce pupils to proprietary software so we have obligations to teach them about the challenges involved particularly in relation to ownership of their data and visibility in the online environment.
Many teachers may not be able to (technically) promote a Free Software environment as advocate by Stallman but it is important that we understand there is another way, definitely more ethical and certainly very interesting.
Stallman spoke for over two hours without notes, without a data-projector and time melted away!
Stallman photo: Wikimedia
GNU Logo: Wikimedia