Fellows ยป madhatter

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Tom Yates' FSFE Fellowship webpage

http://www.teaparty.net/images/tom2.jpg http://www.teaparty.net/images/tom-in-colo-small.jpg

I had the good fortune to arrive at MIT as a Visiting Scientist in October 1991, four months after Richard Stallman published version 2 of the GPL. At the time, MIT made extensive use of GPLed and other free software, although they ran it on proprietary UNIXes (mostly SunOS and Digital Unix, later OSF/1).

The three years I spent at MIT doing scientific programming (all Fortran 77!) and systems administration convinced me that free software was better for me, as a user, than proprietary software. My freedoms were not mere abstracts, but concrete: if I needed to share data with a friend, I could send her the program she needed to interpret the data at the same time; if I needed a bugfix or an enhancement, I could do it myself, or ask a friend for his help; and when I needed to write a new program myself, I didn't have to start from scratch, I had piles of similar or related programs to use as starting points.

These are viewpoints I've held ever since. Every time I have relapsed, and used proprietary software to solve an immediate need, I have regretted it once I came to fix problems that the vendor couldn't or wouldn't help me with. As a result, I made a life and a business out of free software.

My free-software business is systems administration, which my wife and I do through Gatekeeper Technology Ltd., our little company in Cambridge, UK. My free-software life is a personal refusal to use any proprietary software in my life; my preferred GNU/Linux laptop and desktop distribution is Fedora, at the time of writing my ogg player runs Rockbox and my GSM phone is an OpenMoko, and my servers run CentOS - a distribution which only exists because of the rights that the GPL gives me.

I'm not the world's most sociable person, so my community involvement is limited to using free software - including testing, bug-reporting, and in some cases presenting papers at conferences - rather than attending meetings or writing to people. But being a Fellow of the FSFE is, for me, a way to give a very little back.

More personal information is on my website. I don't blog - I'm too boring - but I do occasionally write technical notes about what I'm doing that's technically interesting.


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