The tale of Skype, free-speech, Ballmer and Stallman

    Steve Ballmer stepped on the stage, took out a laptop, and began with his usual enthusiastic tone: "Today I will present you our wonderful product - Skype, we recently bought it." This is not the first time for him, he has repeatedly presented the next product with burning eyes and waving his hands. “Let's start with the name. Skype is a short, catchy word that does not mean anything, so it cannot be confused with anything else. Marketers spent a whole year to find the right combination of letters that would be most pleasing to the ear. And the designers painstakingly painted the logo, choosing the color of each pixel to make it pleasing to the eye. But the most important thing is, of course, the program itself. She is beautiful and comfortable, she does everything in a couple of clicks. ”

    With these words, Steve begins to install Skype. The usual installation process. What language? English. Do you agree to the license agreement? Yes. Do you agree that all information transmitted via Skype, including voice, belongs to Microsoft and can be used for any purpose, including transmitted to special services? Of course yes. Steve is noticeably nervous. It seems that someone from the audience managed to read this line in the agreement. Okay, let's move on. And where to put it? In C:\Program files\Skype, of course.

    “Look at this wonderful interface! Ergonomists selected the correct arrangement of buttons so that your fingers would like to click on them. "

    The performance is over. Richard Stallman came out. “And I want to show you a free analogue of Skype called free-speech! This is our high priority project. I'll start with the name too. This is a pun. In general, I really love puns. For example, GNU = GNU's Not UNIX. But most of all I like Hurd = Hird of UNIX-Replacing Daemons, Hird = Hurd of Interfaces Representing Depth. And do not care what is hard to remember and understand. This is our hacker humor. So, something I was distracted. Actually, I'm a big fan of talking. Especially when it comes to free software. ” Then Richard smiled and scratched his beard.

    “Free software does not mean free. It is free as freedom of speech, and not as free beer. ” Then he smiled again, he loves such phrases. “So, that's why our program is called free-speech, that is, freedom of speech. The name consists of small letters and contains a dash instead of a space, because it is so convenient when you work from the command line. And do not care what marketers think about this. " Then he nervously glanced at Ballmer, who was sitting in the hall and listened with detachment.

    “Free-speech has no logo. Why is it needed? This is also the invention of marketers. How do we show the logo in our program if it has a text interface? You can, of course, decorate the program’s website with a logo, but what if a user watches it through lynx? ”

    “So, our program has a text interface. Why do we need this buggy, inhibited graphical interface? The text interface is flexible, you can put our program even on a toaster. Console programs are easier to develop. The console is a universal interface. Do you know why Windows is buggy and slow? ”Then Stallman looked again at Steve. “Because the graphical interface has penetrated too deeply into Windows, even into its core.”

    "Well, let's look at free-speech." He took out his 9-inch Lemote Yeelong laptop. His favorite gNewSense appeared on the screen. X was not there. Imac immediately started. In fact, Emacs was the main operating system on his computer, and gNewSense functioned as the kernel. Stallman dialed (right in Emacs):


    Then Stallman took out another laptop of the same type and typed:


    "Check, one, two, three." His voice echoed from both laptops. Stallman nailed both programs with Ctrl-C. “See, it works!”

    “Now let's take a look at the source code. In general, this is a free program, it has 4 freedoms: 0. Use, 1. Study and modify, 2. Copy, 3. Copy modified versions. " He smiled again. “Well, for this you need to see the source code. In general, the ability to view the source code ensures that the program does not have any backdoors, that no one stores your confidential information without demand. ” Then he again looked very closely at Ballmer. “Proprietary software is an absolute evil!” They can do whatever they want with your data! They can pass them on to the special services! ”Then he could not stand it, sat down and began to eat some garbage from his feet, as if protesting against the dominance of proprietary programs. Everything was in shock, and in the meantime, Stallman was talking further, while continuing his strange meal: “So, we are looking at the code.”

    set -e
    if nc -h 2>&1 | grep -q OpenBSD; then
    	OPTS="-l" # netcat-openbsd
    	OPTS="-l -p" # netcat-traditional
    if [ $# = 0 ]; then
    	while :; do
    		arecord | nc $OPTS 5555 | aplay || :
    	arecord | nc "$1" 5555 | aplay

    “Look what a great code! Well this is just the pearl of programming! And all thanks to the text interface and powerful features of the shell. Notice how succinctly it was possible to write the code: only 17 lines! What about Skype? Yes, this is a huge program! With thousands of lines, if not millions. This is a graphical interface that no one needs, with buttons, whistles and fakes. ”

    Then Stallman finally finished eating something from his feet and left the stage.


    I did not set out to offend anyone. He simply wrote a funny tale that makes fun of different views. And in general, even though most of the tale I mocked Stallman in full, I relate to him very well.

    Now there are a few facts covered in the text:

    1. Ballmer’s performance is a reference to various Windows advertisements, for example, Windows 1.0 or Windows XP
    2. Yes, Microsoft really bought Skype
    3. Skype name means “Sky Peer-to-Peer” . Source:
    4. The Skype license agreement says that they can send messages via chat (it’s not said about calls) to special services:
    5. GNU Hurd is the core of the GNU
    6 operating system . Stallman really uses Lemote Yeelong, gNewSense and Emacs and usually uses a text-based interface. But of course, Emacs is not an operating system. And Stallman has X. Source: Stallman interview
    7. Stallman has nothing against the graphical interface. Those places where he compares the graphical and textual interfaces are probably the weakest in my fairy tale, because they have nothing to do with Stallman. This is a generic image of the GNU / Linux fanatic.
    8. “He sat down and started eating some garbage from his feet” - a link to this video: (1:50)
    9. Writing a replacement for Skype is really a high priority project by the FSF. And this project is called Free Call o_O (more precisely, as I understand it, it is called Telephony, and the software for building a decentralized network in the framework of this project is Free Call)

    Well, now the most interesting: what kind of code is given in the fairy tale? Well, there is no program called free-speech (although you never know, maybe a program with the same name is somewhere on the Internet among thousands of small free projects). I wrote this code, it really works, it is extremely simple and demonstrates the full power of the shell, although it is completely inconvenient to use and non-functional.

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