13 December 2015

RMS in Houston

So, I am flying through Houston on my way to a training in San Diego and I look up from eating something in a waiting area and I see this guy and say to myself, "That sure looks like Richard Stallman."  I just keep looking and he flips open his laptop (a little Thinkpad, good choice) and there are FSF stickers on it.  "Oh, my," I think, "It IS Richard Stallman!"

Now you probably don't know RMS, but you can look him up on Wikipedia:  Richard M. Stallman. He is a virtual god in the free software movement and was either the original writer or major contributor to a lot of GNU software that I use everyday.  He might even be more famous for being a catalyst behind the GPL: the GNU General Public License that applies to the Linux kernel and the bulk of open-source (don't use that term in front of him) or "free as in freedom" software.

It wasn't enough to just note that I might have sighted him.  I walked up (pretty bold move for me) and said "You are Richard Stallman."  He looks up and nods his head.  Gutsy still, I sit down across from him and say I want to shake his hand and that I have respected him as the premier free software advocate.  He seemed nonpulsed, as he gets this often enough, and says I can help him by going to http://www.fsf.org/help-menu, which is where you can donate to the Free Software Foundation that he was instrumental in starting.  I said that I would visit, so I have.

I was confused because I figured there would be a lot of people around him, but he said that he rarely gets recognized, although he looks exactly as he always does - unkempt. He said he came from Mexico City earlier today and someone recognized him, but to have two people in two airports in one day was really quite rare.  He said he was only famous to a very small group of people, statistically.  I guess I am a pretty rare guy.  Leave it to an MIT hacker to talk statistics.

He was trying to find a cell phone to use because he though someone had screwed up his flights.  I told him that I had a cell phone but I don't have cell service for it and only use it with wifi.  He smiled and congratulated me for doing that, which seems consistent with what I know of his tech view and basic distance from popular culture.

I was sitting there saying that I should get a picture with him, just to show off to other people, but I talked myself out of it.  I think that sort of stuff is pretty corny anyway, so I let it go.

He said to visit the fsf.org site once again and I said again that I would and that it was really cool to meet him.  He ended with "Happy Hacking!" and I replied "You, too, RMS!"

So, I finally meet one of the people I always read about!  Stallman was never on my list of people I wanted to meet one day, but it was very cool nonetheless and put me on cloud nine!  Of course, I didn't tell him that I was more a BSD type of guy, which would have raised his hackles probably, but I do definitely respect highly everything he has done for the universe of free software, even his political stuff!