Skip to content
Welcome guest. | Register | Login | Add
About | Wiki | Legacy

CNR.com and World Domination

The GNU/Linux community is facing a great opportunity that it must take advantage of, the turn of the tide of 64bit computing over an increasingly obsolete 32bit computing. The time is ticking away and if we want our operating system to dominate on the desktop we must act now, even if that means making some compromises. This is pretty much the premise behind the paper known as World Domination 201, an elaborate analysis of this opportunity, current status of the operating systems market with regards to GNU/Linux and what needs to be done for GNU/Linux to take advantage of the opportunity and come out as a winner.

Its authors, Eric Raymond and Rob Landley are taking the conclusions they posed in this paper quite seriously. The scene is already being set and the plot for world domination has already begun. And as far as they are concerned, this is the only or the best way forward. What I see as signs of the plan being put in motion are the promised release of Linspire's CNR software installation service to other major distributions through CNR.com, Eric Raymonds involvement with the Freespire project, Linspire's recent partnership with Ubuntu and ESR's recent adoption of Ubuntu as his distro of choice.

There were also some talks about the "codex" CD mentioned in the paper, a package of legally obtained easily installable proprietary codecs that were to be sold by Linspire.

So let's go over this situation again. We have the most popular and one of the most user friendly and advanced GNU/Linux distributions, Ubuntu, parner with Linspire and adopt their CNR.com service. We also have Ubuntu talk about including some proprietary drivers and blobs into their default installation. We have Linspire offering CNR.com to all major distributions and we have the authors of the "World Domination 201" paper working behind the scenes in support of these strategies. Yes, indeed, the plan has been put in motion.

The Plan

The plan indeed does involve a compromise, if not to the Open Source way of thinking then surely to the freedom-emphasizing Free Software philosophy because it calls for adoption of non-free components in order to make GNU/Linux compelling for mass adoption. However, as I originally understood it, this compromise was to be a temporary one. It was to be made because the free replacements of these "essential" non-free parts would not be fully available in time for the 64bit opportunity to be seized, but the opportunity couldn't be missed.

The idea is to do everything we have to do to make GNU/Linux a dominant operating system and then use this prevalent position to influence others to provide us with the rest of what we need, that is, to replace the proprietary components we're using with free ones.

For example, as presenters of the dominant operating system, major GNU/Linux vendors could be able to put an overwhelming pressure on AMD and Nvidia to release the source code of their graphics card drivers as Free Software. While not everyone shares the ethical philosophy behind Free Software, most people, even in the Open Source community, do believe that having a source code and freedom to share and modify it allows for better technical maintainability, adaptability and overall functional efficiency. This would suggest that there would be enough motivation in the community to push for replacements of non-free with free, even after the dominant position has been achieved.

However, in order for this plan to work, it doesn't appear essential to adopt proprietary software for things for which fully capable free alternatives already do exist. Doing this would mean compromising more than we have to and quite probably risking getting too comfortable with running proprietary software on our systems to want to change this later on.

World Domination of what exactly?

In fact, when you look at what CNR.com will be, there is a possibility of a whole new proprietary software market being created within the GNU/Linux field, thanks to Linspire and CNR.com alone. When asked about how will Linspire financially benefit from CNR.com, CEO of Linspire Kevin Carmony responded:

CNR is a free service, but users have the option of purchasing commercial products and services. We share that revenue with the vendors of these products. This is the main source of revenue for Linspire, so expanding the number of users should increase our sales revenue.

And there lies the crux of the problem. First of all, note that when Kevin says "commercial" he most likely refers not only to commercial Free Software, but to a large extent to non-free proprietary software as well. It is worth noting that equating proprietary software with "commercial" software in a way that implies that all Free Software is non-commercial suggests lack of understanding of what Free Software and indeed Open Source is all about. Second of all, if selling proprietary software is the core revenue source of Linspire and if it will be selling proprietary software through CNR.com service, there is a distinct possibility of a whole market being created around proprietary software by the CNR.com site.

How could that happen? Well think about it. CNR.com will likely be quite popular among people who switch from Windows to GNU/Linux because it will allow basically one-click installation of software in a friendly way. This popularity will then be one of the selling points of Linspire when they offer to sell proprietary software of proprietary vendors through CNR.com. As this leads GNU/Linux popularity to grow more and more, the larger amount of proprietary software vendors will want to sell their software to the GNU/Linux crowd and CNR.com will appear to be the best platform through which they could do that.

Before we know it, this would lead to an increasing number of proprietary applications being sold and advertised through CNR.com to the GNU/Linux users. Rest assured that these proprietary programs will include programs for which perfectly functional Free Software equivalents exist.

So how can a freedom loving Free Software user support this ongoing strategy by this new Linspire led "conglomerate" for world domination if Linspire would actively promote the use of proprietary software among the GNU/Linux users (because it is their core business)? How can we trust that once we do achieve the dominance of GNU/Linux, that this OS which was supposed to be completely Free wont be just another hybrid of free and proprietary?

The more I think about it, the more I am concerned that the "World Domination 201" plan at work here is more about the domination of a yet another mixed operating system and not the world domination of software freedom. And is that even worth having? If this is really what we are fighting for then why not just save us the effort and support Mac OS X for they have already made an incredible operating system which is a hybrid of non-free on top and free on the bottom.

It really comes down to a simple choice for everyone of us. Either we care about software freedom and prevalence of *that*, or we care about a yet another OS, "Linux", and the domination of merely *that*. If we care about the former, we will examine critically what Linspire and CNR.com will be offering and if it turns out to be a efficient pipe of delivering proprietary software to the GNU/Linux land, in addition to being a yet another nice way of installing Free Software, maybe it would be better to just stick to our existing installation tools, apt-get, pacman, yum etc.

Or maybe the freedom loving community should forget about Linspire and set up an equivalent service to CNR.com which won't be pushing proprietary software on us. GNewSense guys, any ideas? Eye

For those who may now be asking, "But how do we then achieve world domination and take advantage of the opportunity without CNR.com or even without a compromise?" Well, stay tuned to Libervis. In our next article we may just answer that question. Smiling

Thank you
Danijel

More information:

Comments

I doubt it.

 

An online conversion service would require a gigantic amount of bandwidth for both sides, and even more CPU resources on the servers.

However, this could work with the customer physically coming into the store with CDs, DVDs, or a harddrive (or if they're not hardware savvy the whole PC).

choice

 

ultimately, it would still boil down to choice for people. you don't need to buy proprietary software if you don't want to. but at the very least, people who have real need for certain products (say, Adobe Creative Suite for graphic designers) may be better served by CNR in the future (should it attract the likes of Adobe).

let's be realistic of the fact that some open-source software, while already good, aren't up to par with what some people need.

CNR is a way to make the community grow but not limiting the growth to purists and techies.

besides, if you do feel that GNewSense should make their own version of CNR for totally open-source apps, CNR itself is being open-sourced. a few modifications and some bandwidth would be all that they need then.

Quote:you don't need to

 
Quote:

you don't need to buy proprietary software if you don't want to.

No, you don't. But CNR is encouraging the uninformed to use nonfree software.

Quote:

people who have real need for certain products (say, Adobe Creative Suite for graphic designers) may be better served by CNR in the future (should it attract the likes of Adobe).

Free software exists for that, for example the GIMP, Inkscape, Krita, and Karbon.

Re.: benefit the Linux community

 

> I fail to understand your point of how these “will benefit the Linux community if they where available for Linux”. The only benefit I see is that some CAD operator may use Linux instead of Windows as his underling OS.

If more and more of these "niche software" were available more and more people could (and most probably would) use Linux. This would at the same time enlarge the Linux-market which would make it much more attractive for hardware vendors to support Linux and open up their specs.

It seems to me that your definition of "Linux community" is a bit narrow. Aren't users part of it? More users means more ideas, more potentially helpful colleagues/friends/online participants, more potential to gain contributors and so on. So any user - programmer or not - can be good for the community!

not true

 
Quote:

So any user - programmer or not - can be good for the community!

One that encourages the use of nonfree software, especially when free equivalents exist, is no help. S/he is actually a harm.

Headscratchin

 

Ok, so most of us are concerned that CNR includes a potentially dominant financial motivation to make the free/non-free hybrids a final destination for users rather than a half-way house on the road to full freedom, but I'm still wrestling with the net strategic impact of a rise in the popularity of such an entity.

1. Since every free OS user is one less non-free OS user, what other advantages could accrue from this power-shift?

2. Could a selfish CNR effectively insulate their users from free software community influence?

3. Would it be easier then to get people to fully free from a) fully non-free or b) the hybrids, or would there be no difference?

Well those are some tough,

Well those are some tough, but good questions. I'll try to answer how I know...

> 1. Since every free OS user is one less non-free OS user, what other advantages could accrue from this power-shift?

It depends on what kind of user this is. If it is someone who switched to a new OS for purely technical and practical reasons, with no knowledge of not interest in the difference that it makes for freedom as well, then such a user will very easily fall for the push of proprietary software through CNR and buy it when they feel like it. I am not sure such a user is such a big win for the goal, because as a_thing pointed out, they will further influence other users to not care about the freedom issue as well, and if it's freedom and not *just* another OS that we are fighting for, then this is not good.

If it is however an user who will be open minded enough to learn about the freedom issue and why is this Free OS superior in that sense as well and why is this issue important, than she will be better equipped to reject pushes of proprietary software.

So yeah it comes down to whether the user learns to appreciate freedom or not.

> 2. Could a selfish CNR effectively insulate their users from free software community influence?

This too probably largely depends on the above. I doubt they can really seal their community from the rest of the Free Software community, especially since the service would be provided across a wide range of popular distributions, but they *would* detribute from the right kind of thinking by promoting proprietary software sales as something that pays for their CNR service.

> 3. Would it be easier then to get people to fully free from a) fully non-free or b) the hybrids, or would there be no difference?

If you look at what the user really appreciates (from the answer to the first question) then from that perspective it wouldn't make a real difference. The difference is mostly practical (getting used to some of the free applications, the underlying system etc.).

The Grand old Duke of York?

 

Thanks for the insights, I'm learning a good bit. I hope I'm not being a pest here, and if I'm jumping the gun on a discussion best left to the planned follow-up article please don't hesitate to advise me to have patience and 'watch this space'.

Evolving thoughts on those particular questions:
1. I guess the Machiavellian side of me would welcome any loss of revenue to the anti-freedom os vendors, and the impact of news that their market share has begun to fall in favour of free os's.
On a wider point which I'm hazy on, would more free os users guarantee more leverage for free drivers?
As for the users, we'd have some wins great, but also some users with zero tolerance for freedom, and varying shades of openness in between to try to reach over time...

2. Through CNR then, how could we assist users in their learning. I know my dad would rather clean out the garage than use a command line, so freecnr.com or a gui installer like adept is where to reach him. Could our facility highlight beside each option, 1. Price 2. License Restrictions. This way he can compare and learn to choose wisely for himself. Maybe CNR under pressure from non-free suppliers would instead be making big claims on cnr.com for non-free eg something on vendor support rating (ignoring community support), or fudding users a la xp about unapproved installs. Seems like a potential anti-competitive legal issue that could drag on.

3. In further support of your point, a friend who sells for dell relayed that last week he tried to up-sell a non-geek prospect to MS Office, only to be told their was no need as the person was delighted with openoffice. Sweet. Application tutorials may be another channel to reach users with some *brief* copy that gets our message across and links to further info. Such copy could be re-used by a lot of free
apps, beat the enemy at their own game. (Am I too willing to chase into the sewer and bite the rats throat?)

Beyond the particulars I've scratched at I think I now appreciate your position better; the net effect could potentially be a step in the right direction yes, but this can only hold true if it doesn't ultimately thwart some more effective strategies, a danger that is hard-wired into the current arrangement.

you're helping

 
democrates wrote:

I hope I'm not being a pest here, and if I'm jumping the gun on a discussion best left to the planned follow-up article please don't hesitate to advise me to have patience and 'watch this space'.

Follow-up articles are often partially based on things learned in discussions about the previous articles. The discussions also help writers figure out what issues are easily understood, and which ones need more explanation. You're helping Eye .

EULAs

 
democratus wrote:

Could our facility highlight beside each option, 1. Price 2. License Restrictions. This way he can compare and learn to choose wisely for himself.

Ever hear a Windows user install something? They say, "Does anyone actually read those things anyway?" and continue installing.

Coming from that attitude, your proposition won't work. They need to be educated.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.