The best way to support yourself being a free software developer is apparently getting another job

In this YouTube video there's a crappy interview with Richard Stallman where he does his typical thing of laying out his philosophy and answering some asinine questions from the hosts. One good question asked though was, more or less, regarding the idea of supporting a family while at the same time giving your software away for free.

Free Software people love telling you that on the one hand you should be able to/you can make money with your software, but on the other they also tend to admit you can't actually make a decent living giving your stuff away for free, and yes I know you can sell your software, but if it comes with source and someone redistributes it to the world, well then you've given it away, so your attempts to charge don't really work.

Yes, there's Red Hat and a few others out there, but since those original big boys which have been heavily propped up by companies which create proprietary software and hardware, there really haven't been any other success stories. All those companies like Cygnus, VA Linux, etc are all gone. The idea of "well we can give it away and charge for support" and "we charge for manuals / physical copies of software" aren't decent and workable business models. They're great ways to go out of business though, unless you've got a big daddy company to back you up, like IBM, which doesn't play be the same rules you claim to.

Here is the part of the interview I'm talking about:

Host: Are you actuality putting the needs of have no non-free software above the needs of feeding my kid?

Stallman: Absolutely. I don't see much difference what your saying and what a thief or swindler would say trying to justify what his doing; the most effective thing an American can do not reduce ecological impact is not have a kid.

In a way that speaks for itself, but the comments too really are interesting because they often both admit the obvious issue of working essentially for free (save a few examples out of tens of thousands of FOSS projects) and at the same time claiming you'll actually be better off and make more money this way.

Not to mention that freedom, apparently, is taking freedom from everyone else; then again this is coming from zealots who think Stallman deserves GNU tacked on to the start of Linux, a requirement which no other software project, platform, or library is morally obligated to make, just Linux.

I think it may be obvious I'm not one of those who says "Richard Stallman deserves praise for all he's done," he gets more than enough praise. I'm not against open source or free software, in fact I've distributed code on this blog using the MIT/X11 license. I am against forcing everyone else to live by your rules and licensing.

If you can make your way through the typical ass kissing Richard Stallman posts, you can find the nuggets I'm talking about.

This was ridiculously stupid. I don't care if your child eats – that responsibility is on you. And I'm not willing to sacrifice my freedom, just so that you can meet your responsibility. Think about it.

It doesn't seem to occur to him that maybe I have the freedom to create closed source software, and he has the freedom to not buy it. It's as if it's imposed upon him. Maybe he should think about that.

As far as the double think goes when it comes to making money. Well, Free software apparently makes it to where developers keep the money or maybe the users, who knows:

…with this model there would no need for publishers at all. All profits would go to developers, the people who deserve the money and did the work. No need to spend on marketing or distribution either, ergo no need for publisher.

Free software is important. Free software takes the power of the CEO or director of a company and distributes it to every single user of the application. Free software is about transparency, and the ability to be less ignorant to malicous code inside software.

However, when reality sets in:

Feeding the kid, lol. As if anyone would have to starve in a western country. Here in central Europe, you certainly don't need work at all for this, there is basic coverage.

Someone's clearly never been poor.

Regardless, the point I'd like to make here is that being a software developer does not mean you are incapable of doing any other sort of work and are a charity case if you can't find a job that meets your standards.

So on the one hand as the developer you'll reap the rewards of all your hard work, but on the other you won't really have any money and "lol fuck you and your kids, get another job, moron," and they apparently don't see the connection here.

There you have it, yes you can make a living and feed your family (as if children are the only dependencies people can have, then again I guess many of these people live with their parents) but really only if you're lucky enough to work at Red Hat or GNOME, or you get a job working some place else.

I definitely see this approach as the best way to increase software investment and development. Everyone knows you do your best work, not when secure in the knowledge you can work all night getting that bug fixed and be proud, … but instead when you gotta get in bed by 8pm because you've got to be up early enough to start up the deep fryers at work; hopefully tonight you'll be able to get on that issue someone reported five months ago.

Quora, where incompetence is fine so long as you have good grammar

I get Quora summary emails despite not being a Quora user, and sometimes I see very interesting questions, and more often than not very incompetent answers… rather, incompetent answers written very well so they sound like they could be correct. Here's one example:


Well, as most of you know, YouTube was never written in PHP, and they could've gained this much by just looking up YouTube on Wikipedia. I think the second part of the question is an interesting one, however the answer is dog shit.

Primarily because it's a question of scalability with two different types of platforms. Sure, Twitter and Facebook seem similar enough. They're both web sites full of assholes bragging about themselves (myself included) and old guys and oily nice guys trying to pick up strange, but their problems are completely different.

So, this is a classic thing of "anything is faster/better than PHP so therefore if it used PHP it would've failed," which is totally stupid and based on nonsense.

Twitter works in ever changing content where historical entries are rarely retrieved, Facebook does pretty much the opposite. I suggest looking up the histories of both how Twitter and Facebook have dealt with scalability on websites like and also YouTube has tons of videos where their engineers have discussed it. Note that you could only listen to information provided by actual Twitter and Facebook insiders, not random morons who think they've got it all figured out, that's why I'm not listing it all here myself.

YouTube could've survived the volume, because it survived with Python, which is slower than PHP in a lot of ways, but I think any actual developers reading this, whether or not they love or hate Python or PHP, know that YouTube's bottlenecks are database and bandwidth, not their code backend. And there's plenty of videos on YouTube of developers from there stating this very fact too.

So, this is a classic thing of "anything is faster/better than PHP so therefore if it used PHP it would've failed," which is totally stupid and based on nonsense. Sure, PHP used to really suck, especially in the days YouTube launched, but that has nothing to do with their success or failure.

But oh it gets worse:


Facebook's HHVM still couldn't be enough? Well, Raphael Costa claims to have 15 years in enterprise software, and I believe it, because it would explain why most enterprise software systems are garbage, because their engineers are incompetent.

Let's just point out why this is nonsensical garbage:

  • Facebook used PHP and expanded with it beyond the popularity of YouTube, and yet YouTube couldn't have used it?
  • Facebook is more popular than YouTube, so this makes no damn sense at all. I guess I said that already.
  • Facebook also serves video.
  • Most importantly: serving video literally has not a fucking thing to do with the language you run on the backend, because you're serving them as flat files or from CDNs. This is true in the case of both YouTube and Facebook, and also your major online porn video sites.

Yet, his post gets the most upvotes, and he is considered authoritative. This is just one example of Quora really being no better than Yahoo answers, especially nowadays. I've never used Quora or contributed, and this is pretty much why.

Should you trim passwords?

A question I see asked from time to time is whether or not web sites should trim passwords on account creation and login. More often than not the typical responses show both a complete lack of understanding of what "trim" even means from people who should know better, and a lack of understanding that not every user is Dade Murphy after he just got in from grindin' some serious hand rails. Though not everyone has their head up their ass or argues from a position of complete ignorance.

So consider:

  • Trim means to remove white space from the beginning and end of a string, not the center.
  • Even if you don't email passwords or display them anywhere, users will still copy/paste them to each other and various places and often this will add a space or \n to the end of the string.

A few things are clear to me based on my experience and reading what others had to say about it:

  1. People who are against trimming passwords either don't know what trim means, or think everyone else understands and uses simple security protocols like not saving passwords in word processors
  2. People who are against trimming passwords probably have never had to deal with real users or customers, and probably are some shitty wanna be Richard Stallman with more than slightly high expectations of what users can and should be able to do
  3. Users should be allowed to have spaces within the string itself, but not on either end, in order to save your support people (and possibly yourself) a lot of headaches
  4. People who are against it assume that if there's a space it's because a user intended it, but how many people actually put spaces at the end of passwords? Basically fucking nobody.

So it's simple: users should be able to use any characters they want in a password, but the password should be trimmed at both create and login. There's also no reason to warn people that passwords are trimmed, again because nobody understands what the fuck this means, even apparently technical people. We know from massive lists of cracked and leaked plain text passwords that nobody uses spaces at the end of passwords, not even keyboard cowboys who give bad advice on Stack Overflow.

Trim away my friends, don't listen to people who probably don't even have clients.

Hamburger Icon, the illogical and unnecessary name

Stolen from the BBC
Stolen from the BBC

You may know the menu icon or navicon, sometimes called "bars", on your smart phone or tablet. When you click it or touch it, you get a menu, ta-da, pretty great.

Except lately I've seen some people, including some people I respect, call it the "hamburger" icon. This is pushed further by the media, and in fact it mostly seems to be a media thing since, well you know how reporters often run out of things to talk about…

The BBC carried this article: Hamburger icon: How these three lines mystify most people.

Are people really mystified by a standard icon seen everywhere? Somehow I doubt it.

Here's why it concerns me:

Standards are important in computing, especially when interacting with regular, "non-technical" people. Having a clear and understandable name for things makes sense. People need to connect words to actions, and if someone says "hamburger icon" instead of the more obvious "menu icon" then we've sacrificed logic to be cute.

It's always been a menu icon since it was invented, and in fact originally the cutesy name was "air vent icon," which makes more sense than hamburger, speaking of…

Here's why it makes no damn sense:

It doesn't look like a fucking hamburger! If it were a hamburger, the top and bottom lines would be wider to signify a bun, but they're all equal. It seems like a really big stretch and attempt to try to apply a name to something that does not need another god damn name.

I always thought it looked like a gripper, as one can often see on the bottom of remote controls to make sliding the battery panel off, as well as many other places. This makes sense too with smart devices, because people use their fingers on them.

Other things it looks more like: a deck of cards, a list of items, an air vent, a stack of items… Would you say the StackOverflow icon looks like someone assembling a hamburger?

Plus when I click it, no matter what, I will never get hamburgers.

Here's what we should do instead:

I don't use the term "navicon", because it seems silly to me, but so does "favicon," and that seems like a good name for technical people and development, but not regular people.

Consider the fact that people, after playing with their phones, tablets, or a web site will see it brings up a menu and they will think "oh, it's a menu icon," and it always brings up a menu wherever they see it. I don't think they'll naturally say "oh it's a hamburger, no duh, of course, as it looks nothing like a hamburger! And just like in real life, touching a hamburger brings up a menu!" even if they don't understand what it's supposed to represent, they'll just associate it with menus.

You use a menu to get a hamburger, you don't use a hamburger to get a menu, unless you're yelling at a waiter from Hamburg, Germany.

So when I say menu icon, they'll know what to click.

The best thing to do is to just not repeat this weird ass thing, it's so trivial and unnecessary.

So if it's so trivial why do I care?

Because I don't want to make interacting with users even more complicated by giving illogical, goofy names to them to be cute. We don't need to set precedent with this, otherwise what's next, calling bullets "M&Ms" because they're both round?

Want to make a list, click the M&Ms icon…

See what I mean, what's the difference? Oh yeah, bullets look more like M&Ms than the menu icon looks like a hamburger.