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Lessons, myths, and lenses: What I wish I'd known in 1998

Sumana Harihareswara

As a teenager arriving at university in the fall of 1998, Sumana Harihareswara was about to meet the free software movement and dive in. Free software taught her engineering principles and political truths. It snuck myths into her head that she'd have to take several years to scrub out. And it gave her lenses, models for understanding the world, that she would reuse in her work, relationships, and activism. For the first time, Harihareswara sums up this two-decade diff into what she wishes she could tell her younger self.


5 years, 8 months ago

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This talk was presented at LibrePlanet.


LibrePlanet is the Free Software Foundation's annual conference. The FSF campaigns for free/libre software, meaning it respects users' freedom and community. We believe that users are entitled to this; all software should be free.


We do not advocate "open source".

That term was coined to reject our views. It refers to similar practices, but usually presented solely as advantageous, without talking of right and wrong.


Richard Stallman launched the free software movement in 1983 by announcing development of the free operating system, GNU. By 1992, GNU was nearly operational; one major essential component was lacking, the kernel.


In 1992, Torvalds freed the kernel Linux, which filled the last gap in GNU. Since then, the combined GNU/Linux system has run in millions of computers. Nowadays you can buy a new computer with a totally free GNU/Linux system preinstalled.


The views of the speaker may not represent the Free Software Foundation. The Foundation supports the free software cause and freedom to share, and basic freedoms in the digital domain, but has no position on other political issues.