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April, 1998: Richard Stallman

Richard Stallman of the Free Software Foundation held forth on his ideals for software as an instrument for freeing individuals to do useful work and creating communities of cooperation where sharing enables a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Mr. Stallman, in town for the Conference on World Affairs, talked for over 2 hours to a standing-room-only crowd who appeared based on a single day's notice.

Richard described his early experiences with software that was both free (source available without limitations) and proprietary at MIT where he worked in the early days of computing (PDP-10s). Due to this experience he decided to dedicate his life to creating free software. While Mr. Stallman preaches that software needs to be free ("without source, it's not SOFTware") he also practices what he preaches, refusing to develop code for customers that want to keep a proprietary advantage and living an ascetic, low cost lifestyle that enables him to give away the results of his work. He lives in a single room and doesn't own a car, subsisting on his MacArthur Foundation grant and money saved from his free software support contracts. He founded the Free Software Foundation to create an operating system that would be free from proprietary restrictions and has been successful in creating a community of developers dedicating their time to his cause.

Richard described his strategy of piecemeal replacement of UNIX utilities with free versions starting with the editor EMACS and which has culminated in the free UNIX he calls GNU-Linux (Linux kernel with GNU utilities). Although most people refer to the distribution as Linux, he asked that people use the GNU designation to acknowledge the contributions of the GNU community (although by rights it should then be called the BSD-GNU-X-Linux distribution). Not content with the mono-lithic Linux implementation of the UNIX kernel, he is continuing an effort called HURD (Hurd of UNIX Replacement Daemons). The HURD kernel is composed of multiple multithreaded servers servicing system calls built directly into the GNU C library and running atop the message passing Mach micro kernel from CMU. This architecture should make it much easier to debug and enhance the operating system's functionality. For example, users can add their own file systems as user tasks, rather than having to re-write the operating system kernel.

Although Mr. Stallman may come across as a bit of religious fanatic to those employed by the companies who's proprietary software he skewers, he finished up poking fun at his own software religion by donning a robe and disk platter "halo" and impersonating his "friend" St. Ignacio to exhort his followers to pledge to run only free software on their computers.

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February 15, 2009

February 2008: FRUUG Enters Quiescent Phase
After 27 years running, we're suspending operations.

Future Meetings:
None planned

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