As Chicago Mayor Harold Washington said of the corrupt former Mayor Daley, “I’m not glad he’s dead, but I’m glad he’s gone.” Nobody deserves to have to die — not Jobs, not Mr Bill, not even people guilty of bigger evils than theirs. But we all deserve the end of Jobs’s malign influence on people’s computing.
I covered open source software and the Linux movement from 2004 to 2007. It was an interesting time for OSS, which was still battling with “closed” software giants like Microsoft for mainstream relevancy and control of the desktop and enterprise. Richard Stallman was at a few of the events I covered, and I saw him speak in person a few times within prestigious institutions like MIT. His schtick was software should be free, as in beer. He also railed against things I disliked as well, like DRM.
But as far as I can tell from those four years, I came away with two pretty well-defined opinions of Stallman and the people he despised (like Steve Jobs), and how they affected the world. One is that Steve Jobs, for all his imperfections, bad temper and secrecy, was a man who undoubtedly changed a world that’s headed for unimaginable levels of connectivity and technology, and changed it for the better.
Then there’s Richard Stallman, a once brillant and influential software developer (GNU, Unix, Emac) who has since faded from mainstream view and enjoys complaining loudly at opportune moments just to hear himself talk. It’s sad, but I suppose pride has its place in the free software world too, no?