Software Programs, Technology Security

Free Software More Secure than the Real World, Stallman Learns

THE OUTSPOKEN father of Free Software Foundation and GNU Richard Stallman, was mugged of all his important belongings last Friday after giving a talk at UBA Buenos Aires University, learning an important lesson on Basic travel security in the process…

"Richard Stallman, father of the FSF, had his bag containing his laptop, medicine, money and passport stolen after his talk at the University of Buenos Aires on Friday, June 8" wrote local software developer Guillermo Rauch, creator of the Javascript lib that goes along well with Node.js adding that "anyone in the audience could walk up to him, exchange a few words, get a sticker and a picture. Unfortunately, on this occasion someone decided to take advantage of the ruckus and take his bag."

Richard Stallman. Photo credit: Wikipedia

Apparently Stallman started cursing the moment he realized his bag was gone, and even started hitting himself in the head while storming out, to end finally crying on the stairs, this according to another report of the events from someone who attended his presentation.

You can’t think big if you’re looking at a bag all the time
One of the readers of Rauch’s post nailed it pretty well: "being smart and street smart don?t necessarily are skills that go together. Actually, more often they don?t. As bad as I feel for RMS, I will never get tired of telling people not to carry their documents and laptop together". He’s got a point.

It strickes this scribbler as a bit odd that someone with the travel experience as RMS would put his belongings at risk by not following the common advise from almost every travel guide out there.

American insurance firm Church Mutual writes "Do not carry your passport in the same place as your money or pack it in your luggage. Remember to keep your passport number in a separate location." reminds its visitors about security: "Do not carry your passport with you once you arrive at the convention destination. Make a copy of the passport if you so desire and carry it with you but leave your passport at the hotel. If the room you are staying in has a safe, lock it in the safe. If it doesn?t, consider leaving it in the hotel safe. Most important, do NOT carry it with you."

NGO CardioStart writes in its safety policy document for volunteers traveling overseas: "Do not carry your passport around for ordinary day excursions. Keep two photocopies of your passport ? one in a separate part of your checked luggage and another in your hand luggage". The IndependentTraveler web site adds that "Your passport is the most important document on your packing list; protect it, and it will protect you. Having your passport lost or stolen could turn your otherwise flawless trip into a potential disaster." is blunt: "Passport, credit cards and cash should go into the hotel safe. If possible make copies of your passport to carry with you and leave your passport in your hotel", and UK travel site HotelAnywhere recommends the same: "Leave your passport and valuables in the room safe or in the hotel safe."

By now RMS has surely realized how important those tips are, although all great thinkers pay little attention to mundane details, like one blog reader recalls: "I once volunteered to catch Richard from the Airport to his Brussels sleeping place before doing his Fosdem presentation." adding that "he almost forgot his laptop bag in my car" adding that "when he noticed this almost loss, he started to ‘run’ after the car shouting. Of course this was Belgium (not Buenos Aires) and I was not a real Taxi Driver."

In any case, RMS’s laptop being quite unique and of little inmediate cash value being unable to run Windows -it’s a MIPS-architecture Yeelong from Chinese firm Lemote- will surelly make it easier to spot on local auction sites like and MasOportunidades in the event the thief is dumb enough to put it for sale on-line. A commenter on DevThought shed some blame on the event organizers: "It is the organizers duty to educate visitors before they arrive."