back to article Free software pioneer Richard Stallman is battling cancer

Richard Stallman has revealed he is undergoing treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a form of cancer of the white blood cells, but says that his prognosis is good. The 70-year-old Stallman appeared at the GNU Project's 40th anniversary celebration in Switzerland on Wednesday a very changed figure. The GNU project is currently …

  1. cornetman Silver badge

    I wish him well and many years to come.

    1. Clausewitz4.0 Bronze badge

      Same here

      1. Wellyboot Silver badge

        Ditto -

        Fingers crossed he beats this quickly

  2. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Same here

  3. jake Silver badge

    Hang in there, rms.

    And listen to your doctors, you cantankerous old git.

    (I'm allowed to say that because I are one.)

    1. The commentard formerly known as Mister_C

      Re: Hang in there, rms.

      I would ask "a doctor or a COG?", but I've been around here long enough to know the answer. And you're right either way.

      1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

        Re: Hang in there, rms.

        I think Jake was born a COG (probably)

    2. David 132 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Hang in there, rms.

      Indeed, I wish him long life and a good recovery. His absolutist, no-compromise attitude to software freedom has benefited all of us, even if sadly it's earned him detractors on the way.

      Not trying to trivialize his condition at all in any sense, but I have an elderly dog who is currently going through chemo for the canine equivalent of NHL - his third round, and he's 17 going on 18. The oncology vets are amazed at how well he's doing and his incredible quality of life. After each round he has remission for about 4-6 months. At $1000/month for the chemo, I should bloody well hope so!

      1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Re: Hang in there, rms.

        His absolutist, no-compromise attitude to software freedom has benefited all of us, even if sadly it's earned him detractors on the way.

        “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

        If ever that quote applied to anyone, it's rms. I'm more on the esr side of things, but you can't deny that without rms we probably would be more locked into walled gardens than we are now.

        1. DuncanLarge Silver badge

          Re: Hang in there, rms.

          Without RMS there wouldnt be an ESR, and we wouldnt notice any of the walls.

  4. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

    Wishing him the best

    We all owe him a debt for his work on and advocacy of Free Software. Truly one of the [cantankerous] giants from whose efforts the reat of us have benefitted.

    Best of luck to him.

  5. D. Evans

    Contraversal & Charismatic

    I had the unfortunate event to meet the man, who at the time I admired greatly, in 1999.

    Yes, he's a complex person, with a great ego. But he has big ideals and grand plans.

    Due to my interaction with him, over several hours, I dislike him intensely, but love his ideals, his dedication, and commitment. And I wish him a long life, and hope a cure happens for his disease before his stack overflows.

    1. shraap

      Re: Contraversal & Charismatic

      Well said - we need reminders like him that everyone isn't just simply good or bad: it's possible to be a visionary and a massive dick at the same time, for example.

      Hope he pulls through this to continue to annoy and impress us for a few more years, yet.

      1. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

        Re: Contraversal & Charismatic

        Given half of Americans think the orange one is the next jesus, its hard to accept that RS is a dick given how warped American values are ...

        1. Steve Button Silver badge

          Re: Contraversal & Charismatic

          What next? Is someone going to drag Brexit into the conversation?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Contraversal & Charismatic

            Give it time :)

    2. Mostly Irrelevant

      Re: Contraversal & Charismatic

      Yes, Richard Stallman has had some great ideas as well as some not so great ones. He's a very polarizing personality, known for disagreements with pretty much everybody in OOS.

      But that doesn't mean I don't wish him well, hope he responds well to the treatment.

      1. DuncanLarge Silver badge

        Re: Contraversal & Charismatic

        > known for disagreements with pretty much everybody in OOS.

        Well they are constantly trying to hijack the conversation.

    3. StrangerHereMyself Silver badge

      Re: Contraversal & Charismatic

      Yes, people can be complete asses and still be useful in the world. Steve Jobs had a similar dubious reputation in that regard.

  6. Groo The Wanderer

    Fingers crossed; the man is an icon.

  7. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

    Its a shame we dont hear from real contributors to humanity like RS rather than the endless articles about some CEo said this or that.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    An inspirational guy

    I had the pleasure of meeting him for a guest lecture in the William Gates Building (of all places) at Cambridge Uni. The entire experience felt surreal and I was in complete awe of the man who helped produce some of the best quality CLI tooling (at the time) working his uniquely nerdy charm with the crowd. Regardless of what the cancer ultimately does to him, I hope the world pays his work forward, so the next generation can experience the same level of computing freedom I did growing up.

    1. Jonathan Richards 1


      What is it with the downvotes? Can't be personal animus, because: AC. The post consists of a personal anecdote, a statement of personal feeling, and a well-phrased expression of hope for the future. I fail to see the reason, or purpose, of downvoting without the downvoter expressing itself more clearly.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: +1

        I don't know, but when posts of mine have a couple inexplicable downvotes, I tend to ignore them as either someone pressing the wrong button, someone annoyed at something I said elsewhere, or someone who simply didn't want to explain why they disagreed. I don't think it's the time when someone blindly downvotes all the posts as I can see a few that have none, but that's always a possibility as well. I tend to ignore downvotes unless there appears to be an unusual number of them, in which case I start to look for a reason someone objected to what I said as it will help me better understand our opinions.

        1. Groo The Wanderer

          Re: +1

          There have been times I seemed to acquire "persecutors" on the internet who downvoted anything and everything I said online through those sites. I suspect they must have had a bot configured to automate the downvotes, because they sure weren't missing many if any. *LOL* The joys of living in a world of trolls...

    2. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      Re: An inspirational guy

      the man who helped produce some of the best quality CLI tooling (at the time)

      May I propose a new CLI tool named... "rms" ? As for what function it performs - may be some reporting function about the system/may be a list of gnu utilities on the system?

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: An inspirational guy

        Make sure that the -rf flag combination is incredibly important to catch out people who typo rms to rm so that it causes the maximum possible damage. Maybe -f could be "full output", while being careful that the default non-full output is useless. After all, what better tribute to our long history of CLI tools but making sure that some of the command decisions are either confusing or make accidents a bit too easy?

      2. DuncanLarge Silver badge

        Re: An inspirational guy

        "rms" already exists.

        It's a program on Debian systems that when run will report back if it has detected any non-free software on your system.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let's hope his treatment doesn't depend on any patented drugs which of course he would be obliged to refuse.

    1. DuncanLarge Silver badge

      As he has stated in his speeches he has no probem with patents.

      Just with the fools who think they can apply it to mathematics and processes.

  10. DrGoon

    Since he's here in the US, I hope he not only beats it but that it doesn't bankrupt him.

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      There are lots of tech billionaires who owe him a debt of gratitude. If none of them help, the rest of the tech community can crowd fund

  11. karlkarl Silver badge

    RMS has had a fantastic impact on the industry. His unwavering dedication to software freedom is the only reason that computers are accessible to us all today.

    I wish him all the best!

  12. Grogan Silver badge

    Oh no! I'm so sorry to hear this. I wish him the best outcome.

  13. Yes Me Silver badge

    Not so fast

    "Without his efforts to formalize and promote Free Software, there would be no Open Source world today."

    Honestly I think that is untrue. He was the figurehead of the free aspect, but open source was coming anyway, just with less annoying licences than the GPL. I don't see any reason why Linux would not have succeeded with a BSD-style llicence, for example.

    1. mattaw2001

      Re: Not so fast

      I'm not sure I agree. Linux was first released fractionally before the BSDs went open source. Maybe a couple of years after the gpl debuted.

      It has been argued that Linux is the success it is due to the requirement to contribute code back.

      Linus himself has credited gpl2 as being important:

      1. Groo The Wanderer

        Re: Not so fast

        The BSD's were open source from the get-go; I had the pleasure of running BSD on VAX-780s as part of my university curriculum environment at University back in the '80s. I think they installed the second release to get away from AT&T's licensing expense.

    2. DuncanLarge Silver badge

      Re: Not so fast

      > He was the figurehead of the free aspect, but open source was coming anyway

      No it wasn’t. If you read up on the history RMS was basically the LAST person left in the Free Software community who wasn’t a total sell out making big bucks.

      The culture existed for decades before it was named Free Software, which RMS did as it finally needed a name to make people realise that it had existed.

      Open Source only came about because of the pushing of Free Software ideas into unixy places as GNU was being built. This attracted new faces and invigorated old ones, now all nostalgic about the old days of hacking. But they had much business acumen and were much less strict about hypocrisy than Stallman, so they happily created Open Source as their own rebranding. They wanted the Free Software feeling, without the politics but with all the popularity as well as a massive chance to have a dig at Microsoft.

      > I don't see any reason why Linux would not have succeeded with a BSD-style licence, for example.

      Again, you have no clue what the history is. You think linux would work in a BSD world? Well, where is the rest of the OS? Linux only worked because GNU wanted a kernel. No GNU, no Linux. Torvalds would have still wanted to improve Minix so Linux would still have gotten going but without GNU to be the OS around it Linux today would essentially be like Haiku, an interesting development OS that is coming along bit by bit.

      BSD licenses are way more annoying that the GPL. The GPL is the dominant license for a reason. BSD licenses are just a way to allow people to be nice to people who want to be dicks to others further down the line.

      Even today the BSD's are the odd ones out, just about known about and used. Why would FreeBSD do any better with Linux? It already had a brilliant kernel, yet has largely stated where it always has been.

      Without Stallman, GNU, FSF and the GPL there would be no Linux as you know it. BSD's will be odd OS's you find in scientific circles and universities. There would be no ODF, no Tivo (remeber that one?) no software defined radio, no Raspberry Pi. All there would be is Microsoft and proprietary software and formats.

      Imagine where you were back in the 90's with computers. What software were you using? What were you upgrading to? Now imagine you never got that free Redhad CDROM in your Gateway PC box...

  14. wolfetone Silver badge

    It's quite frightening to see how many forms of NHL there are. All of them incredibly different with various levels of prognosis and outcomes. I know someone who has a NHL of the nervous system, and it's been incredibly unfair on them to have that horrible thing. My mother has (I think) something called a Non-Zodal lymphoma that while it is benign and responds to treatment it has a 50% chance of turning malignant because of the treatment, at which point the prognosis plummets.

    While he grossed me out a few years ago by picking things off his feet and eating them while giving a talk, I wish nothing but the best for him and others who are going through this fucking horrible disease.

    A medicinal beer/beverage of your choice

  15. Steve Button Silver badge

    wearing an antiviral face mask?

    I know this is besides the point, but you said it not me. There's no such thing as "wearing an antiviral face mask" any more than there is "wearing anti-viral chrystals" or "taking anti-viral homeopathy" or even "an anti-viral comfort blanket"

    The Cochrane review has systematically assessed a large number of studies, and found there's no significant difference. Then there's all the natural experiments around the world.

    What you are doing is political and anti-science.

    Please stop using language like this.

    1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: wearing an antiviral face mask?

      [Author here]

      > There's no such thing as "wearing an antiviral face mask"

      I agonised over that phrase for a while.

      I do not know what kind of mask it was, and I cannot readily find out -- certainly not on a tight deadline.

      It _looks_ to me like a disposable surgical type facemask, and not even an FFP2 or FFP3 mask or something EN145 compliant.

      However, he specifically mentioned the importance of wearing one, and I think that he was right to do so. COVID-19 is not over and there is a surge going on right now; someone immunocompromised and on chemotherapy is perfectly right to be extra sensitive about this.

      All I know for sure is that it was for COVID-19 protection, because he said so, and if I used a more ambiguous term such as "a facemask" then in the context of RMS it could mean an Anonymous mask or who knows what. This is, bear in mind, the person behind St IGNUcius.

      Also note The Song, and JWZ's take on it.

      RMS is a person with a new and potentially severe disease _of the immune system_ who is travelling abroad during a peak of the ongoing COVID pandemic. When I wrote that the facemask is antiviral, that denotes its _intention_ and not any properties of the mask itself.

      1. Steve Button Silver badge

        Re: wearing an antiviral face mask?

        Many thanks for the reply Liam. You obviously put a lot more thought into your wording than I did with my objection.

        I don't agree that he's right to mention the importance of wearing a face mask, as there's no strong scientific evidence that they make any difference. I'm sure if he'd walked in wearing healing crystals and suggested everyone else did, you wouldn't take the same position? It's got about as much scientific backing at this point. I'm surprised that someone like RMS would take that position, but Cancer is scary so perhaps...

        I'm personally very biased though due to a traumatic childhood incident, so perhaps I'm looking for confirmation on my position. I do try to keep that in mind. I also have bad hearing already, and so this lecture would have been completely lost on me (as much audio has been lost on me over the last 3 years). Lastly, I really need to be able to see peoples' faces, to be able to communicate effectively. Perhaps it's just me, but I suspect not.

        Remember we're hopefully talking about asymptomatic people here. If you've got a stinking cold (like I do right now, which is perhaps why I'm antsy) then you really shouldn't be at such an event. I certainly wouldn't be there spreading germs.

        1. Steve Button Silver badge

          Re: wearing an antiviral face mask?

          I should add, my own father has late stage prostate cancer and when the family goes to visit him literally no one wears a facemask. It's not something we've even considered. Hadn't even thought about it until now, which seems like a similar situation. Perhaps this is a USA / UK thing, because there are very very few people still wearing them over here. When I go into London I see perhaps one a day, and in remote Suffolk one a month.

          I don't believe we're genetically all that different from each other, so the only other difference that springs to mind would be politics.

          Is it possible that you have been influenced by US politics?

          Also, saying "during a peak of the ongoing COVID pandemic."... does anyone actually believe that? I don't see anyone behaving like we're in an ongoing pandemic. Or a peak of anything. Flu is twice as bad at this point, and that's not considered a pandemic. Just because the WHO says something, doesn't make it true. Right now, as things stand it's well and truly over (endemic) and has been for some time now.

          We now need to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and look back and learn some hard lessons (like, don't ever deal with things like that again, and next time calmly be more like Sweden... without fucking the global economy and throwing hundreds of millions newly into poverty, which can't be good for anyone can it?)

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: wearing an antiviral face mask?

          there's no strong scientific evidence that they make any difference.

          Depends on the mask. It's not clearly visible on the picture, but his has a seam in the middle which suggests it's not the surgical mask which is indeed more to protect patients from getting things in the open wounds during surgery that shouldn't be there, but not very helpful combating Covid19. If it's a proper N95/98 (FFP2/FFP3) mask, that does actually protect the wearer more than his/her surroundings as it closes on intake, but tends to leak past the nose on exhale. I've seen new masks that have improved the shape of the nose foam to counter that, but that's a quite recent development. Caveat: this assumes the masks are worn and disposed of as per manufacturer's advice: 4h max in one continuous session, 24h max after first use, storage expiry tends to be 5 years post manufacturing date as the electrostatic layer charge deteriorates over time.

          This may help.

  16. C Yates

    Mandatory xkcd

    I only forwarded this classic onto someone last week too, so I feel slightly heartbroken at this news.

    I hope he beats it, or at least doesn't suffer...

  17. dmedin

    This the same Richard Stallman who advocates for forced experimental vaccines? Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy!

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