I am a strong believer in free software, as defined by the Free Software Foundation (FSF). But when time goes by, I hear a lot more people complaining about FSF being “fanatic”. Although I can understand why it seems that it is this way, but this should not necessarily be a bad thing. FSF advocates for software being free, as in freedom. Sometimes, when advocating for free software, they use methods that could be more harmful towards themselves than it needs to be. This is when they for example call proprietary or closed source software as “evil” or “nasty”.
But I think that they are trying to convince that the software, if it is closed source, would not respect the end-user of that programme. The end-user never will know what exactly the software does, could it be sending sensitive data to a company or other things that could harm your privacy. And this is one of the reasons why they choose to call proprietary software “evil” or “nasty”.
There is another “camp” in the matter of software, that is not proprietary. It is called “open source”. The difference between “open source” and “free software” is that open source “camp” has development as the key value, while the free software “camp” has the social value as the key value. In short this means that the “open source camp” thinks that the open source software is better in practical ways, while the “free software camp” thinks that the free software better in social ways. In short, free software thinks of a community project where everyone helps everyone. But all in all, the projects have one common goal, that is eliminating closed source/proprietary software.
So, would it be better if all software was proprietary? In that case, I would imagine this happen:
- All computer users are made dependent on the software developer(s).
- Only those working with the software projects would know the source.
- Developers could put in malicious features in the software, if they wanted.
- Non-developers would not have control over the software that they can install in their machine.
- Non-developers would be slaves under the computers.
Not a rather pleasant thing to know, at least not for me in that matter. I know that most of the people using computers most likely are not computer scientists, but still free software gets you as the end-user more alternatives. You are given the chance to learn programming, and learn to know how the stuff works. And in my ideal world, there would only be free software that makes the community work together. And this is a way of regaining power over the computer that you own.
However, there is a rather small problem when it comes to this:
- Some websites could need proprietary plugins (such as Adobe’s proprietary Flash plugin, since Gnash has problems with Flash sites).
- Institutions, such as schools, could use proprietary email clients, such as FirstClass. This would be needed if you would like to read your school email.
- Fully free software computers could crash, due to the lack of supported hardware.
So, then the question could be raised: How can we work together towards free software? The easiest answer would be to start using an operating system that is more free that the one we have now. With this I mean, if you use Windows or Mac, you could try an operating system as Linux Mint or Ubuntu. These operating systems are in my opinion two of the simplest operating systems when you come into the world of Gnu/Linux. They are more free than Windows and Mac, but use some proprietary software or some proprietary software is already installed. The thing is, when you start to turn towards free software, it probably is a bit difficult to stop using all kind of proprietary software. Thus, this makes the transition more simple.
If you already are using any Gnu/Linux distribution, you could choose to not include the proprietary repositories through your program central. Another alternative would be to install a completely free os, such as Trisquel. Trisquel has been my favourite os, but the major drawback for me has been that the screen did freeze too often and I was forced to restart my computer before it could start behaving normally too many times. This was when I used Trisquel 5.0 LTS, but I know that there is a new version out there. For now, I am content with my Ubuntu 12.04. Even though it has some blobs in the kernel and is not entirely free software, it works good out-of-the-box. And I choose not to install proprietary programs. So, in my opinion, I do as much as I can to use free software.
Another solution would be that all developers would start coding free software. But I do not think that all developers would, especially those who code proprietary software. So in that case, we as computer consumers, could start demanding more from the manufacturers and developers. We could start demanding more free software. If they would not listen, we could boycott those manufacturers and developers to show that we mean business. This is of course more demanding, but it should show some results. This of course, if all computer users would join together in this campaign. Together all of us would stand strong.
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