I always encourage people to use RSS or Atom feeds to subscribe to people’s blogs but many people need an introduction and explanation about RSS and Atom.

Let’s talk about RSS, as it’s not much different with Atom. RSS is basically a web feed that is readable by computers. A web feed is a data format used for providing users with frequently updated content. It means that whenever the blog or news feed gets updated, the user can receive the update in user’s feed aggregator.

Writers or so-called content distributors syndicate a web feed, thereby allowing users to subscribe a channel to it by adding the feed address to a feed aggregator client (also called a feed reader or a news reader).

The information could be blog entries, news headlines, or audio or video files. RSS documents usually contain complete or summarized text, metadata, and author and publishing information.

There are some distinct advantages to using RSS. Instead of visiting the individual websites, RSS feeds can help provide users with updates and information from different sites in one convenient place. For example, instead of visiting 30 websites every day, I just open my feed aggregator and hit the update button, and I get the latest published writings or media from those blogs or news sites I’m subscribed to.

With RSS, subscribing doesn’t need email! You won’t be asked to give away your email address to any blog or site, and that site won’t be able to sell your data to anyone. RSS just simply visits or opens the blog’s RSS file and checks for new writings or media, and will show it to you in a human-readable way.

Just like how you read this blog post on your web browser, but RSS gives you ability to read everything on your own computer without being forced to open my blog.

Sample of a feed aggregator program (Liferea), featuring Chris Wiegman‘s blog post.

So what is Atom?

“The Atom Syndication Format is an XML language used for web feeds, while the Atom Publishing Protocol (AtomPub or APP) is a simple HTTP-based protocol for creating and updating web resources.” That was Wikipedia. In human terms, Atom is basically RSS with extra steps.

I personally prefer Atom feeds over RSS ones because Atom benefits from on-going innovation and is a standard. The Atom Syndication Format was published as an IETF proposed standard in RFC 4287 in December 2005, and the Atom Publishing Protocol was published as RFC 5023 two years later, in October 2007.

While the RSS vocabulary has a mechanism to indicate a human language for the feed, there is no way to specify a language for individual items or text elements. Atom, on the other hand, uses the standard xml:lang attribute to make it possible to specify a language context for every piece of human-readable content in the feed.

Also, the Atom working group chose to use timestamps formatted according to the rules specified by RFC 3339 (which is a subset of ISO 8601, my favorite time format).

How to use it really?

Subscribing to blog feeds may be the easiest thing you can do with your computer. First thing you need is a feed aggregator program. I use Liferea, which is a free (libre) program. There are a lot of other programs you can install. Thunderbird and Evolution email clients come with a built-in feed aggregator. If you use Nextcloud, the Nextcloud News app is super cool. Another suggestion is Akregator which is developed by KDE.

Second, you need to go to blogs or news sites you like and grab their RSS or Atom feed URLs. They usually provide their URLs somewhere in their site, possibly using the “subscribe” or similar phrases. An easy way to detect feed URLs is using web browser add-ons. I use Feed Indicator add-on on my Firefox-based browser. You can search similar terms to find more add-ons.

Third, you should copy the link of the RSS or Atom feed and paste it in your feed aggregator program new subscription form, and hit subscribe or OK or whatever it is. You’ll find out.

That’s it. You can now ask your program to update the feeds to get latest published writings or media on your favorite blogs or sites.

Apple’s new controversial feature “protections for children” opens a back door in your iPhone. The feature is controversial not because it protects children, which is very needed and good practice, but because it chooses a wrong way to do so.

Apple has explained its privacy and security practices in its proposed back door but at the end of the day, it’s a back door, and there’s no such thing as “only-good-guys back-door”.

Many people are angry about it and many are already campaigning to ask Apple reversing its decisions. A very known one, Apple Privacy Letter, is a campaign supported by famous EFF, Privacy Foundation, Freedom of the Press Foundation, and many others is asking people to sign the petition on GitHub and says “Apple’s proposal introduces a backdoor that threatens to undermine fundamental privacy protections for all users of Apple products.”

I don’t use Apple products. They’re proprietary and against computer user freedom. Instead, currently, I use a distribution of Android operating system named LineageOS. I’m not going to sign any campaign or beg Apple to respect my privacy.

When it comes to privacy, Apple is not a hero. It wasn’t long ago that Apple turned over iCloud data to Chinese government. Apple was not a privacy hero then, and is not a privacy hero now. They are very good at marketing and selling products, but they’re not, at all, a hero of privacy practices.

I agree, Apple’s privacy practices are much better than proprietary Android manufacturers, but that’s not enough. Respecting people is not giving them some privacy. As long as Apple is controlling everything and doesn’t give people full control and right over their devices, including software freedom and right to repair, they’re not a hero in anything but violating people’s rights and freedoms.

Many mobile operating systems and devices are not easy to use, I fully agree. GNU+Linux phones are not very suitable for daily use and Android devices may have some problems such as accessibility issues, but the real answer to, the real solution of, this kind of controversies is not to beg Apple or anyone to respect us, but is to respect ourselves by running free software and privacy-respecting operating systems, and those are not made by Apple or any other proprietor.

You may say free software also has bugs and insecurities, free programs is not perfect. Yes, that is true. However, the difference between free and proprietary software in this respect is the handling of the bugs: free software users are able to study the program and/or fix the bugs they find, often in communities as they are able to share the program, while proprietary program users are forced to rely on the program’s developer for fixes.

If the developer does not care to fix the problem — often the case for embedded software and old releases — the users are sunk. But if the developer does send a corrected version, it may contain new malicious functionalities as well as bug fixes.

I urge you to answer to what Apple is going to do by installing and running a free operating system. Put yourself in control, and run software in which you can run freely, study, share, modify, and share your modifications. Free software empowers users and is the best answer for any situation, specially in ones like what we’re facing with Apple right now.

Ahmad Haghighi, a Fedora GNU+Linux contributor and ambassador was removed from the project because of his nationality. He mentioned this in a tweet announcing his contributions and posts in “Ask Fedora” are removed. Even the long first post of the Persian Ask Fedora is removed.

Matthew Miller, Fedora Project Leader and engineer at Red Hat said that “haghighi linked to a bio page he created on Fedora wiki which states that his location is in Iran. Once Fedora as a project becomes aware of that information, we have no option. Personally, I do not think this is a good policy. But it is not a Fedora policy or Red Hat policy — we need to do it to comply with the law, which the US government enforces seriously.”

I stopped using Fedora because of the same thing. The fact that Fedora complies with U.S. laws no matter if it imposes injustice on people is very disappointing for me. I know they are forced to do this but that doesn’t mean I can ignore this injustice.

Free software philosophy won’t allow any restriction on using the computer program, but doesn’t say anything about who can contribute on the main project. I believe the base of that is to restrict developers from doing injustices to people and since I believe the philosophy of free software is to avoid injustices, I believe this kind of act is against the soul of software freedom.

This action, whether from U.S. government or anyone else, is very hurtful not only to free software community but to all people and should be stopped. Whether it’s law or not doesn’t justify the action. I understand they’re forced to but don’t ask me to understand I’m considered an illegal being because of my location or nationality.

Close Windows, Open Doors
Picture courtesy of Free Software Foundation (CC BY 3.0 US license)

Two days ago, Microsoft introduced new version of Windows operating system and many seem to be excited and interested. Microsoft did some changes to the user interface and added what seem to be a cool feature, running Android apps, but, after all, it is same old Windows.

New versions of Windows might change the UI or underlying components, but they don’t change the only thing important to know about Windows: it’s nonfree software. Windows is closed to everyone, a proprietary operating system that neither users nor independent experts can view the system’s source code, make modifications or fixes, or copy the system.

This puts Microsoft in a dominant position over its customers, which it takes advantage of to treat them as a product. A nonfree operating system, just like any nonfree software, puts the developer in a controlling position over users’ computing, unlike free operating systems and programs that respect people.

Windows is privacy-violating, discriminatory, and a spyware. However, since a long time ago a group of hackers and a community of freedom-minded people are using and continuously developing a free (as in freedom) and privacy-respecting operating system named GNU, and most of them are using the Linux kernel.

By contrast, free software like the GNU+Linux operating system is developed by professional and volunteer communities working transparently, freely sharing their work with each other and the world. Users have meaningful influence over the software development process and complete choice over what code they run.

This means the software usually treats them with respect. Even if a free software developer took a page from Microsoft’s book and began abusing its users, it would have no way to keep them locked in — when this happens, independent experts copy the source code, remove the offending bits and help people switch to the user-respecting version.

Avoid Windows and install a free and privacy-respecting operating system. Close Windows, Open Doors.

Data Security

To start this article, I should mention what those words mean. Freedom means “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint” and liberty means “the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views.” However, from now on, when I use any of those words, I mean both of them. So whether I write freedom or liberty, I mean “freedom and liberty”.

I value my liberty. I think liberty is what makes humans, humans. As a Middle Eastern, I understand how much my freedom is valuable and important. Us Middle Easterners are very much familiar with struggles one can have to gain freedom.

We fight for freedom in Middle East. If you’ve followed Middle East news in past 10 years, you surely understand what I’m talking about. Part of our fight for liberty needs us to be anonymous. In Middle East, you may get arrested or executed for simply talking against the dictator, so many of people take anonymity very serious when they talk politics, or anything else.

Anonymity is part of privacy. Anonymity is a choice when someone has privacy. I should explain this too. Being anonymous is a choice while privacy is a right. Someone with privacy can or may be anonymous but one can be identified and known while one still has privacy. I for example am active in a social network with my real name but I still take my privacy seriously, and am careful about my computing and acts.

Now back to what I was saying. In a situation like Middle East, privacy is so essential for living that almost everybody takes it seriously. I don’t mean all people are avoiding Google or Facebook, etc. but I mean they try their best to not give their data to the government.

People in Middle East basically understand the value and importance of privacy. However, even in Middle East, many people give me the argument of “I have nothing to hide” and refuse to take their privacy and rights seriously. Many don’t understand with not taking their privacy seriously, what they’re giving away.

To live as a free human being, and not be controlled or conquered by any person or power, you need privacy.

Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.

Edward Snowden

Let’s start arguing against the “I have nothing to hide.”

Continue reading

I sent this post as an email message to libreplanet-discuss mailing list.

Do you guys follow football? I mean the real football, not Amerikkkan one. There’s a club in Spain named Barcelona. They have a player in their team named Leo Messi. I think many of you know him.

Messi is believed to be one of the best football players in the history. During time, some people accused Messi of sexual assault and harassment. They even went to court for it and sued Messi. It turned out that all of them were only doing this for money, hoping that Leo Messi gives them some ransom.

There’s another player named Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo is almost as same as Messi. He is again believed to be one of the bests in the history. He also was accused of sexual harassment and assault. Again, some people went to court and sued him, etc.

Some of the accusers never went to court but they tell very interesting stories on how they were assaulted. There were no proof and the teams (Barcelona and Real Madrid) never responded.

I can’t tell if those players who have a reputation of good behavior and charity and social work were really offenders or not, but I can tell one thing. Barca and Madrid didn’t let go of their best players because of some unproven accusations.

I remember Leo Messi once attacked a journalist physically because he was very angry but again, he made up to that, apologized, and never repeated such behavior because he was aware of how it can affect people. Again, we didn’t see any effort to ban Messi from playing football completely because that mistake.

I’m a football fan. I’m a fan of Manchester United, neither of those teams I mentioned but I never ever campaigned to throw out Messi and Ronaldo for unproven accusations.

I did not expect those teams to simply fire probably the best player of their history because some people said so.

Do you get my analogy here? I hear stories about an autistic person named RMS that he has assaulted women, harassed them, or sexually abused them. When I go and read the stories, I see what Stallman did was to “upset” some people. Not harassment, not assault, but upset.

Stallman shouted at some people or interrupted them while speaking. He hit on women or asked them out and insisted on that, which made them uncomfortable. If he was doing to me, I would be upset too, but I wouldn’t ever accuse him of assault or harassment. I wouldn’t expect FSF to fire its probably most valuable player that is known for his charity, effort for equality, justice, women’s rights, etc.

Why people expect FSF to fire its probably best player in history? I don’t understand that.

What people explain is not sexual harassment. He was an unpleasant person, maybe, to some people but he didn’t do anything to harass them.

Let me give you another example. There’s a different between patting some child on the butt and pedophilia. Now a pedophile most-probably does pat children on the butt but are all people who do that pedophiles? Hell no.

Please don’t accuse people of what they didn’t do because they made you uncomfortable or were unpleasant. If someone shouts at you, defend yourself or if the act of shouting makes you psychologically hurt, please be very very careful when you come out of your home because you may experience it almost every time.

If someone hitting on you makes you uncomfortable, ask them not to do that or ask security to help you but don’t accuse that person of harassment because looking at someone or being weird is not harassment. And again, please be careful when you come out of your house because you may experience it every day.

If someone interrupts you, ask them not to do that or argue back but don’t accuse that person of harassment because they didn’t harass you with that. Harassment is different. And please be careful when you come out of your house because people may interrupt you every day.

Stop with accusing people of things when they didn’t do that.

Also, please don’t accuse me of sexual harassment because I wrote this note. I don’t even know any of you and I did not harass you. Disagreeing with you is not harassment. Sending email messages is not assault.

I had to clarify that because as far as I’ve seen you people, the next open letter would’ve been for me. Don’t start arh-open-letter please. And yes, I’m mocking some people.

From my previous post, I should add this:

We should not let them win this. This is not just RMS, it’s a fight for truth. If we, and FSF, step down, we give them power to do anything simply because they want to.

The first mistake was made back in 2019 when the FSF bowed down by not standing up to the mobs. That sent the message, “we listen to you.” It’s only natural that the mobs will try again, with renewed violence.

If we had same attitude 40 years ago, there would be no FSF and GNU. It took someone like RMS to create what we have.

Canceling someone because he explained the meaning of some words is crazy and dangerous. And there’s more. Once they realized the issue with the words was not enough of an excuse, they started looking for more, resorting to intentional misinterpretations, exaggerations and lies.

And the FSF keeps listening to the same rant.

Richard Stallman is a scientist and a philosopher. That means he has an inquisitive mind. If he says he is skeptical of something, if he criticizes the status quo, it only means that: a doubt, a desire to understand better. And as a scientist, as soon as he discovers evidence that clarifies his doubts, or something that helps him understand, he is ready to declare it openly. He has done that, several times, as have many scientists on a variety of subjects.

History shows that inquisitive minds are not always welcome, specially when they challenge religious, ideological, or political views. If these minds choose not to self-censor, they need to be ready to suffer severe punishment.

Galileo Galilei was accused of heresy and brought to trial by the Inquisition when he declared that the earth was not flat. Giordano Bruno was burnt at the stake for holding opinions contrary to the masses. There are many.

Yes, we are back to the Middle Ages.

Update: I received an email about this note. The message:

Hi Ali,

you conclude your last blog post by saying: “Galileo Galilei was accused of heresy and brought to trial by the Inquisition when he declared that the earth was not flat”.

Please be aware that not only Galileo was never tried for Earth’s roundness, the whole fact that the flat Earth theory was widespread in the middle ages is a hoax. Earth’s roundness was already well established in ancient Greece, and nobody ever doubted that even in the Catholic church. The flat Earth theory really originated in America. around the late 1800s.

Even the myth of Christopher Columbus wanting to prove that Earth was round is humbug. Everyone knew Earth was round, there was no need to prove it whatsoever.

The reason why Galileo was trialed was because he said that Earth revolves around the Sun, as opposed to the geocentric doctrine that was then accepted in the mainstream.

Lastly, I find your last remark inappropriate. The middle ages were not at all “dark”, most of the pre-modern technological advancements happened there. More relevantly, there was never a dictatorship of the angry masses which is what the cancel culture is about. If anything the angry masses had their chance to impose their opinions starting from the French revolution, at the height of illuminism – ironically, the movement that invented the concept of the medieval times being the “dark ages”.

I hope you will consider altering the conclusion of your article, as in its current state I feel it ruins an otherwise well written and very agreeable content.

Regards,
Alessandro

I’ve been asking those who signed letter to remove RMS from all leadership positions whether they’ve read RMS statement/email that lead to all the controversies we’re now experiencing but not a single person have read the complete message/statement.

This is madness. All those who I asked have got their info on the matter from news sites that only quoted very specific part of RMS’ message out of context. They’re asking RMS to step down from his job simply because they don’t know what he said exactly.

Let me give you a backstory.

A backstory

It was September 2019, just a few months after the world had learned of the horrific sex trafficking operation run by influential billionaire Jeffrey Epstein. Revelation after revelation had come out of powerful people and institutions connections to Epstein. MIT was no exception. Epstein had donated $850,000 to MIT’s Media Lab, visited campus many times, and associated with several professors and administrators. Richard Stallman was not among the MIT professors with Epstein ties, and like all decent humans was appalled to learn of Epstein’s heinous crimes.

However, Marvin Minsky, an acclaimed AI pioneer at MIT who passed away in 2016, was an associate of Epstein having been a recipient of Epstein’s research grants. Minsky visited Epstein’s estate in the Virgin Islands where one of Epstein’s 17-year-old victims was “directed to have sex” with him. In response to this and the other revelations, a protest was organized at MIT and an invitation for it was sent to various MIT email lists. Stallman was on one of these and sent a reply-all response that included the following:

The announcement of the Friday event does an injustice to Marvin Minsky: “deceased AI ‘pioneer’ Marvin Minsky (who is accused of assaulting one of Epstein’s victims)” The injustice is in the word “assaulting”. The term “sexual assault” is so vague and slippery that it facilitates accusation inflation: taking claims that someone did X and leading people to think of it as Y, which is much worse than X… The word “assaulting” presumes that he applied force or violence, in some unspecified way, but the article itself says no such thing… We can imagine many scenarios, but the most plausible scenario is that she presented herself to him as entirely willing. Assuming she was being coerced by Epstein, he would have had every reason to tell her to conceal that from most of his associates…

RMS simply explained the meaning behind a word. He is very careful about the words he uses. You can look at his glossary and anti-glossary on his website. Specifically about this matter, RMS has called Epstein a serial rapist several times but people accused him of defending Epstein and pedophilia. Something very far from truth.

Some also accuse Stallman of sexual harassment and “assault” which there’s no proof of and as a person who knows him, I can tell very far from truth. They also are annoyed that RMS had a mattress in his room/office at MIT and were seen shirtless, which I don’t know how it is disturbing. If you’re harassed or assaulted by seeing a shirtless person, man or woman, I think you’re the crazy one here.

Now with this short simple backstory, let’s get to what’s happening now.

(Don’t) cancel RMS

Few days ago, RMS announced that he’s back. Many people cheered this decision and announcement and some were upset. Well, many were upset and many are asking FSF board and RMS himself to resign over this decision. Complete idiocy.

This makes me mad not because I’m a fan of RMS’ work but because of idiotic cancel culture that is going on free software world. Misleading media and news, among those who just hate RMS are pushing lots of pressure on FSF and Stallman to make them resign from their jobs.

We should resist this. This is very dangerous. Giving organizations power to control literally the future of free software movement is dangerous. I would support a debate between RMS and anybody who wants to debate him on his claims and statements but quoting only part of his statement out of context to cancel someone is dangerous to all of us.

Imagine this. You say “those who say ‘rape is good’ are bad people.” Then I write a blog post about your statement and quote “rape is good” from you and ask people to cancel you. You literally said the opposite but because I quoted only specific part of your saying out of context, people get mad and try to ruin everything you stand for or have.

RMS is a diamond for free software world and we should keep him. Nobody can lead the movement and the Free Software Foundation better than RMS. I’ve always said, the difference between us and Open Source people is our principals. We stand by our principals and values no matter what.

If we don’t stand by our principals, which are based on justice, we’ll lose everything we have ever fought for. I highly oppose those who ask RMS and/or FSF board to resign.

I’m in process of canceling all my donations to organizations who signed that letter and I’ll stop any help I was providing to them whether they’re individuals or an organization. This is not an effort to cancel them but an effort to not be affiliated with any person or organization that doesn’t care about truth.

I would even cancel my FSF membership if they decide to resign or cancel RMS. A weak organization that doesn’t fight for truth doesn’t deserve any help or support.

Last but not least, I invite to read this great article: #Cancel We The Web?