RMS: It’s not the Gates, it’s the bars

Saturday, 2008-July-05 at 18:08

BBC NEWS | Technology | It’s not the Gates, it’s the bars

To pay so much attention to Bill Gates’ retirement is missing the point. What really matters is not Gates, nor Microsoft, but the unethical system of restrictions that Microsoft, like many other software companies, imposes on its customers.

There are those who disagree with this statement, but having read the whole article, I find it difficult to disagree. Is it not true that many proprietary software companies are following in the footsteps of the RIAA and MPAA, trying to force people to re-buy the same content multiple times so they can play it on multiple devices? You do not have to be a free software fanatic to agree with him. Go read the article and then come back. I’ll wait right here.

I even bought a computer with Vista pre-installed (since resized to make room for an installation of MEPIS Linux 6.5.02 64-bit, and probably to be replaced once I get the Atheros WiFi card working under Linux). Why did I buy it? Because I have work to do and could not sit and wait for someone to ship a computer to my home and then have the family ship it to me in whatever state I would be in by the time it arrived. In other words, while Vista is not at all ready for use in either a home or a business environment, the fact is, if you have work to do, you use whatever is conveniently available to work with. We even have a word for this: we call it pragmatism.

Pragmatists like me use “free,” open source, liberty-respecting software when that is an option, but recognize that there are some situations where it is not an option or not an immediate option. We recognize that there may be times when we do have the option of not using anything, and (in my own case) I am usually willing to make that sacrifice.

Contrast this with “Genuine Advantage” snoopware, which runs in the background, reporting back to Redmond, and without which Windows will not even start. We have no idea what kind of information is being sent back. Does Redmond know that I installed Safari, Opera, and Firefox? That I made Firefox my default browser? That I have Thunderbird and Claws-Mail, my e-mail client? That I replaced the trial of MS Office 2007 with OpenOffice? That I made 7-zip my default for all compressed file types it can handle? Do they know about me adding ClamWin as a backup to the proprietary anti-virus program? They very well could. They very well could know the network topography of the hotel where I am staying right now, as well as the hotel I was in before I came here. And … for the right price, so could anyone else. By using proprietary software, you are supporting someone whose interests are contrary to yours, just as much as any used car dealer’s interests are contrary to yours when you come in to buy a car.

Now, that may be acceptable, but each person should know what they are choosing, and have the choice at the time of purchase. What RMS is “bleating” about is the way that many large proprietary software companies want to deny us that choice. As usual, he’s right.

Many users hate the “Microsoft tax”, the retail contracts that make you pay for Windows on your computer even if you won’t use it.

Indeed. I would gladly have purchased the computer without an operating system and installed what I want from the beginning. It certainly couldn’t have taken any longer than removing all the garbage that HP put on it. Bundling the OS and a ton of crapware is a way to restrict choice and preempt competition. Like RMS, I look forward to the day when there are high quality liberty-respecting alternatives for every software product. And guess what? I do not mind paying or contributing in order to have that.

Source: Jim Robertson.

Entry filed under: Open Source, Software.

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