Free Software Foundation - 2007 Associate Member Meeting

The Free Software Foundation's annual Associate
Members Meeting
is always an inspiring event for me.  It serves as a sort
of State of The Free Software Union; where members gather to discuss ideas and listen
to speakers.  Most of the FSF
Board of Directors
were there to speak.

I attended the meeting today (Saturday 03/24/2007) for the 4th time in the past 5
years.

It was held at MIT (Cambridge, Massachusetts):

 

I arrived during Joshua Ginsberg's (FSF Senior System Administrator) speech on “FSF
Systems Administration”.  He gave an overview of some of the systems and internal
work going at the FSF offices. Some highlights:

  • FSF now runs LinuxBIOS on new Tyan servers
    for FSF and GNU Project resources.  They will
    be contributing documentation and information to help others install a Free BIOS.
  • New and much improved FSF network infrastructure and connectivity for FSF/GNU hosted
    resources.
  • FSF is switching from Zope to Django (both
    Python powered!) for web application development...  Lots of new stuff coming
    soon, including contributions back to the Django community.

Next up was Brett Smith, the new
GPL Compliance Engineer
at the Compliance
Lab
.  One thing Brett mentioned was that GPL license violations are pretty
much kept secret and not disclosed to the community.  FSF prefers to negotiate
with violators and talk them into compliance behind closed doors.  I'm not sure
I agree with this practice.  I asked Richard Stallman about this during his Q&A
Session... stating that I thought this information should be released to the public. 
I don't see it as an overly aggressive move and I think publicly outing companies
that are GPL violators would be a good way to give exposure to Free Software and help
curb future violations.  RMS doesn't quite agree with my standpoint, but he asked
some FSF staff to explore generically publicizing more types of violations.

Next was Gerald Jay Sussman,
speaking about "Robust
Design
". Gerry was the author of my first Computer Science book, the venerable
Wizard Book (SICP)
, and one of the authors of Scheme (a
programming language dialect of LISP). 
I was able to thank him for the pain and enlightenment his texts brought me during
my CS studies.

Gerry is a complete madman when he gives presentations.  Forget the powerpoints
and fancy presentation gear... he just slings around old school projector slides at
blazing speed.  Admittedly, the stuff he talks about is far over my head. 
I'm just a lowly computer programmer.  This guy has been at MIT since 1964 studying
the cutting edge of computer science, mechanics, and electrical engineering. Watching
him ease through functional programming and Scheme code is a little intimidating,
but the entertainment value alone is worth it.

OK.. now the person most people came to see speak... the GNU Project founder, FSF
President, former MIT AI Lab hacker, Emacs/GCC/GDB author, Chief GNUisance, and St.
Gnucius himself... Richard
Stallman
:

RMS was in a surprisingly jovial mood. He is usually sorta moody and prone to outbursts. 
I saw him shout at, and absolutely berate Larry
Lessig
a few years ago in front of a large audience at an FSF meeting.  However,
today he was in fine form and gave his speech "Free Software and Software Patents". 
He delivered well and really punched home the point about the absurdity of patents
when applied to software.

After RMS was Eben Moglen, FSF Chief
Council, Columbia Law Professor, and founder of the Software
Freedom Law Center
.  Eben is my favorite speaker.. bar none.  He speaks
with passion and insight that is truly inspiring to watch.  He gave his "After
GPLv3" speech.  It was an update on the current state of the GPL
revision process
.  Stallman and Moglen are leading the massive effort to
complete GPLv3.  I am very thankful that people
like Eben Moglen are on the front lines protecting our freedom.

Eben Moglen:

Bruce Perens was in attendance: 

He seems to have taken a very
strong interest
in the GPLv3 recently.

... and of course there were the obligatory FSF activist signs:

RMS listening to Moglen's speech:

Now... everyone... go join the FSF and become
an Associate Member
.
... or at least continue your Free Software hacking and advocacy.

Goldberg... out!