[glugot] A Day in the Life of... Richard Stallman

  • From: Joe Steeve <joe_steeve@xxxxxxx>
  • To: glugot@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 01 Mar 2004 16:32:43 +0530 (IST)

A interesting article on ACM Crossroads.,

Last Modified: Monday, 15-Jul-02 13:15:47 
Location: www.acm.org/crossroads/xrds8-4/dayinlife.html 

A Day in the Life of... Richard Stallman

What I work on: The overall goal of my work is to give computer users
the freedom to study, copy, modify and redistribute the software they
use. In other words, I'm an activist in the Free Software Movement. 
To give users these freedoms in a world where most software denies its
users freedom, we had to write an alternate world of free software. In
1984 I launched the development of the GNU operating system, intended
to be Unix-compatible and entirely free software. In 1991, Linus
Torvalds wrote a free kernel, Linux, which filled the crucial gap in
GNU, but development of GNU/Linux system continues today. 

Since October 1985 I've been president of the Free Software
Foundation, a tax-exempt charity to promote the freedom to share and
change software. 

How I arrived at my present job: I don't have a job. My last job as at
the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab, but I resigned in January 1984 as
preparation for developing the GNU system. 

Resigning from MIT was necessary because, had I remained on the MIT
staff, the MIT administration could have turned my work into a
proprietary software product. There was no use developing the GNU
system if it would not make users free. 

I made a living in the 80s by occasional contracting (teaching, and
free improvements in free software), and in the 90s by speaking. But
making a living is a secondary part of my life--I try to make it take
up as little of my life as possible, partly by avoiding expensive
habits. That way I can spend most of my time doing something worth

How I organize my day: I dislike having structure imposed on my time,
so the only part of my time that I organize is what I do with other
people. In between those activities I do my usual work, which consists
mostly of dealing with the issues that raised by email each day, but
also writing articles and working on Emacs. Whenever I feel like doing
something else, such as reading, eating, listening to music, or taking
a nap, I do it. 

Amount of time spend working daily (at home and office): Ideally I
would not have a separate home and office. If they must be separate, I
spend as much time as possible at the office, and only go "home" when
necessary. Of course, this presumes that the office is comfortable. If
I had an office in substandard conditions, such as a cubicle, I would
try to get away from there. 

My problem-solving strategy: If I don't see how to deal with an issue,
I just put it aside and come back to it later; in the mean time, I
might think of an idea. There are so many tasks to be done that I can
always procrastinate from one by doing another. 

What I do to relieve stress: People who disagree with my views often
say rather harsh and prejudiced things about me. When that makes me
upset, I blow off steam, then read other mail until I am thoroughly
calm. Then I go back to the issue. 

The other cause of stress in my work is when I try and fail several
times in a row to fix one single bug. When this happens, I can feel
despair for a few minutes. Then I tell myself that there is no giving
up and I must solve the problem. So I go back to work. 

My hero, mentor, or person that I admire and why: I especially admire
people who have worked for freedom--people such as Nelson Mandela,
Aung San Suu Kyi, Martin Luther King Jr, Daniel Ellsberg, Ralph Nader,
and Noam Chomsky. I also admire scientists who have worked to advance
human knowledge and health rather than primarily for profit. 

What I do to mentor those who work for me: I have not made a study of
mentoring, so I simply answer their questions as best I can. 

How a negative event changed my life in a positive way: In 1981, when
Symbolics hired away the other hackers from the MIT AI Lab, they
destroyed my community and left me in a state of aimless
discouragement. But when they returned in 1982 bearing an ultimatum,
they gave me a way to fight back. I rejected their ultimatum, and
spent two years developing an alternative to their software. The book
Hackers tells the story of this. 

That experience honed my anger so that I could apply it constructively
to other battles, and showed me I had the strength and persistence to
undertake a large project such as GNU. 

One event or decision in my life I wish I could go back and change:
When Debian GNU/Linux was developing its own free software criteria, I
should have thought about them more carefully. Over the past decade I
had dealt with various issues of interpretation of the definition of
free software, but I had not written down the conclusions. I should
have raised these with the Debian leaders, but it didn't occur to me
until later. 

What values are the most important to me and what I value in others:
Truth, beauty and justice are the important values. I admire people
who devote their efforts to these goals; people whose goal is mere
success have too small an ambition. 

What inspires, motivates, or gets me excited about my job on a daily
basis: Computer users deserve the freedom to cooperate. It's up to us
to make that happen. We must not fail them. 

Biography: Richard Stallman is the founder of the GNU project,
launched in 1984 to develop the free operating system GNU (an acronym
for "GNU's Not Unix"), and thereby give computer users the freedom
that most of them have lost. GNU is free software: everyone is free to
copy it and redistribute it, as well as to make changes either large
or small. 

Today, Linux-based variants of the GNU system, based on the kernel
Linux developed by Linus Torvalds, are in widespread use. There are
estimated to be over 17 million users of GNU/Linux systems today. 

Richard Stallman is the principal author of the GNU C Compiler, a
portable optimizing compiler which was designed to support diverse
architectures and multiple languages. The compiler now supports over
30 different architectures and 7 programming languages. 

Stallman also wrote the GNU symbolic debugger (GDB), GNU Emacs, and
various other GNU programs. 

Stallman received the Grace Hopper Award from the Association for
Computing Machinery for 1991 for his development of the first Emacs
editor in the 1970s. In 1990 he was awarded a MacArthur Foundation
fellowship, and in 1996 an honorary doctorate from the Royal Institute
of Technology in Sweden. In 1998 he received the Electronic Frontier
Foundation's Pioneer award along with Linus Torvalds; in 1999 he
received the Yuri Rubinski memorial award. In 2001 he received a
second honorary doctorate, from the University of Glasgow, and shared
the Takeda Award for Social/Economic Betterment with Torvalds and Ken

Last Modified: Monday, 15-Jul-02 13:15:47 
Location: www.acm.org/crossroads/xrds8-4/dayinlife.html 


Free the code, free the user.
visit : http://www.joesteeve.tk/

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