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Why I joined the FSF - That GNU+Linux Guy

Why I joined the FSF

April 29, 2014

This is a very important story to me, so I'll start from the beginning.

Introduction to "Linux"

Some time about a year ago, I was grounded by my father for something I can't remember, and I was excruciatingly bored. I possessed a little red Dell Inspiron Mini (a netbook) that at the time ran Windows 7 Starter. With the excuse that I would be learning about alternative operating systems, I downloaded and installed Ubuntu 12.10 via the wubi installer, allowing me to dual-boot using the Windows bootloader.

I played around with it, broke it a couple of times, and got a feel for how life works in a GNU/Linux environment. At that time, I had no idea the mountain of morals, ethics, and values that had come together to make such an experience possible. It's only recently that I learned the huge responsibility that I was at the time neglecting.

Linux Mint

Some time later, I was encouraged by a friend of mine (Aaron Murtishaw) to install a distribution called Linux Mint, which at the time was on its 15th release. He told me about Cinnamon, and it seemed pretty interesting. This was the first time I installed GNU/Linux the "right way" by using a flash drive and GRUB to dual-boot between Win7 and Mint 15 on my main box.

During this short period, I found myself using Mint more often than Windows, but a driver issue that I (at the time) couldn't resolve eventually drove me back to a world of convenience at the price of freedom.

Dark Ages

For quite some time, all of my computing was done using nonfree software. I mostly played games with my friends. The only interaction I had with free software was beyond my knowledge when I used an Ubuntu server to host my gaming community's website and game servers.

Software Development

An interest in the popular voxel sandbox game Minecraft, particularly its multiplayer modification CraftBukkit, got me interested in computer programming for the purpose of creating plugins for said mod. I learned Java code through some pretty good tutorials on YouTube, but through my learning, I began developing my own software, and I had a nice personal collection of programs before I ever got back around to making plugins.

The main thing that kept me occupied was the development of my very own top-down 2D role-playing game. I had always wanted to make my own computer game since I was about ten years old and making tabletop RPGs. I noticed that I was spending all of my free time developing and very little (if any) time playing any games.

Arch Linux

Around that time, the same friend that showed me Mint was pressuring me to try a lightweight distro called Arch Linux. I was experimenting with virtual machines at the time, so I spun up a box and tried installing it. It wasn't as bad as he'd made it out to be, so I installed it onto a partition of my external hard drive and used it for a while.

At this time, another friend of mine was frequently visiting and seeing what I was up to. He was very interested, so I set him up as well, and we became better friends throughout the process.

After a few weeks of not using Windows, I realized it was in my best interest for practical reasons to install Arch on my main hard disk, so I did. This I did with confidence, since I spent most of my time in a programming IDE and not my once-beloved Windows games. Not too much later, my friend switched full-time as well.

Jupiter Broadcasting and my Introduction to RMS

By then, I'd gotten involved with the Jupiter Broadcasting community by way of the Linux Action Show, LINUX Unplugged, and their corresponding communication media (Mumble and IRC). Through a couple of references that I later found out were from a LAS interview of Dr. Richard Stallman (RMS), I was led to watching some YouTube videos about big figures in the computer world. Eventually, I came across some "Best of Richard Stallman" compilations which led me to some rather long (2 hours each) public speeches by RMS which really got me going about free software.

It didn't take me long to start talking about this discovery with my close colleagues (immediate family, nearby friends, professors, etc.). Shortly thereafter, I started licensing all my software under the GNU GPL and hosting the source on GitHub for all to see, learn from, and contribute to.

Conviction

Some time passed, and I realized both on my own and from comments others that I was very passionate about the advancement of freedom in the computer software world. I'd become a lot more active in the JB and free software communities stressing the importance of freedom and discussing regularly the importance of freedom for both users and developers.

It was then that I decided it was time to put forth a physical contribution to the free software movement. It was during the recording of LINUX Unplugged episode 38 that I officially signed up for the Free Software Foundation and was given my number: 12889.

Amendment 1

During September and October 2014, I made the switch to free distros (Parabola and Trisquel). Read about it here.

Notes

By request of RMS himself, I provide the following notices:

  1. If you intend on using the web version of YouTube to view his speeches, you should use the HTML5 player instead of Adobe Flash. If Flash is not installed, the HTML5 player will start by itself. Alternatively, you could use this or a YouTube downloader such as youtube-dl to mitigate the use of nonfree software.

  2. The GNU/Linux distros I mentioned in the above text (Mint and Arch) are not ones with a policy on free software. In fact, their default kernels are patched with nonfree blobs (for proprietary hardware support). Neither myself, the GNU project, nor the FSF approve of this practice. It is possible to use these distros in complete freedom, but we do not officially endorse them because of their stance on the matter (allowing nonfree software in the official repository and by allowing nonfree blobs in their kernel in the name of convenience, which is foolish and unethical).

  3. If you are interested in how you can help out the effort with or without joining the FSF, you are encouraged to check out this page for more information.