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Taking over the world, one GNU/Linux PC at a time

This is the promised followup to the recent article which basically establishes significant flaws in execution of the World Domination 201 plan which by all means seems to have started. The flaws are in the nature of the business model employed by the company who is apparently supposed to play a crucial role in this plan, Linspire.

"World Domination 201" presented a strategy of *temporary compromise* in order to accelerate the adoption of GNU/Linux by the masses and hence put it in a position in which the 64bit tide will throw GNU/Linux at the top of the operating systems market. However there are no confidence-inspiring indications that this plan is consistently being put to action as such. Not only that, but it is proving hard to trust Eric Raymond to care enough about holding true to the "temporary" part of the plan. He doesn't have a real problem with proprietary software anyway. We can't count on him being the one advocating replacements for proprietary components when the fitting time for that comes.

In fact, as we were able to find out from Landley's comments, it was Landley who wrote most of the document, not ESR, and it is probably due to Landley more than ESR that the document advocates a "temporary" compromise, and yet ESR obviously has more pull in the matter than Rob Landley, and is much closer with Linspire.

In this article we move away from this document and its propositions, suggesting that even the plan itself may not be the best way forward and that there is in fact an alternative more uncompromising way to get to our goal, which is the prevalence of a Free Software operating system.

Proprietary components by default: how far can it get us?

It seems as if everyone lightly assumes that as soon as we start putting proprietary components into GNU/Linux systems by default to enable certain functionalities which wouldn't work otherwise, the mass market will be ours. I don't hear this question being asked too often; how far can this compromising really get us exactly?

The fact is that there always were certain GNU/Linux distributions which did exactly this, and yet they didn't get so far as to cause mass switching from Windows to GNU/Linux. Instead, Ubuntu was the first to make a significant dent, and it never advertised itself as the distribution which includes all the proprietary components needed for all functionalities people usually demand. Just the opposite, it advertises as a distribution that "will always be free to download, free to use and free to distribute to others". Even today when it seems to be compromising this promise a bit, it still doesn't include things like flash and proprietary video drivers, albeit they make it easy to install them.

This begs the question; is including proprietary software really the key to winning the operating system market? It looks like Ubuntu is doing as fine as it possibly can even without that.

We can make GNU/Linux "just work", absolutely perfectly, right after installation, no matter how many proprietary blobs, drivers and other software we have to use to make it happen, and yet, how far would this bring us? There is a certain point at which this just doesn't cut it anymore, and I think we are slowly reaching that point today. Everyone who would switch based on technical superiority alone is already switching. Those aren't the masses, however. The real masses are people who don't get past the very first step at getting GNU/Linux on their computer, installation.

How can proprietary bits help us there? They can't, and suggesting this as a solution is completely missing the point. They can only take us so far, but definitely not all the way we want to go. Is it, then, worth tainting our systems with it at all? When you consider the alternative way I would boldly say no, it is not. We should keep our systems 100% Free Software by default.

Get me a GNU/Linux PC now!

The amount of energy some people put in advocating compromises with proprietary software could be much better spent asking great and small PC vendors to enter the business of selling GNU/Linux powered PCs, out of the box. In fact, not only should we be demanding others to sell GNU/Linux PCs, the ones able among us should start such businesses on their own! Saturate this new market, expand it and make new leaders if the existing ones (Dell, HP, Lenovo) don't see the light (as soon as we want them to).

The key is in building computers out of hardware which is fully supported by Free Software, rather than putting in proprietary drivers for things that aren't supported. Companies should take a 100% Free Software GNU/Linux software setup and test their machines on them, in order to make sure that everything works flawlessly. If an ATI or Nvidia card doesn't work well, dump it and use Intel! If this or that wifi chip doesn't work with Free Software, dump it! Create a situation that ATI, Nvidia and others who refuse to open up won't find comfortable, because they would be missing the increasingly more significant portion of the market.

We could summarize this strategy the following way: instead of adapting our software to existing hardware even when we have to use proprietary software for that, adapt hardware to Free Software and this way not only make fully functional Free Software supported computers, but also pressure uncooperating hardware vendors into freeing up their specs and drivers.

Once everyone can come to a computer store and order a fully functional 100% proprietary fat free GNU/Linux powered PC that just works, there is no more the installation obstacle, and indeed there are no more hardware support obstacles for that particular user either. This is when we will be winning the mass market.

But what about popular file formats and codecs?

Yes indeed, companies in *some* closed mindedly run countries like USA, can't legally pre-install support for certain file formats, like MP3. But there is an acceptable solution to that, and it still doesn't include proprietary software. Instead it includes a patent license with everyone who uses GNU/Linux, through a single agent capable of paying for such a broad license. Such license would allow PC vendors to safely install support for such file formats and users to safely use this support on their GNU/Linux PCs.

This is NOT the kind of deal Microsoft made with Novell. The MS-Novell patent deal doesn't include anyone else but users of SuSE GNU/Linux. We need patent licenses that extend to every single user of GNU/Linux and Free Software.

However, even if this were not to happen it wouldn't be such a major drain as many make it out to be. If so many computer users can live with getting a Windows PC and then have to install so many applications on it to actually be productive, then GNU/Linux PC users can click a few buttons after getting their PC to install the Free Software necessary to play MP3s. Eye

Conclusion:

A reasoning which suggests that merely making GNU/Linux "just work", even if we need to put proprietary software in by default, will open the doors to the mass market is flawed. It can't get us this far as long as people are required to actually install it to be able to use it.

This warrants rejection of all compromising with proprietary software and going for a strategy of forcing hardware vendors to adapt to us instead. Build PCs out of hardware supported by Free Software, reject the rest. There is enough of such hardware today to make many lines of excellent PCs. Make hardware vendors clearly realize that the only way they are gonna be able to take advantage of the growing GNU/Linux market is by at the very least freeing their specifications, allowing the community to write drivers.

From this perspective, shipping proprietary bits into otherwise Free operating systems doesn't make all that much sense, nor value.

So make them adapt to us, not us to them!

Thank you
Danijel Orsolic

Comments

How?

 

The all important question is: How do we get them to adapt to us?

They really have no reason to. (from a business perspective).

What I mean is: how would you convince management of a manufacturer that supporting and adapting to opensource processes is beneficial for all parties? How does it benefit them specifically?

That is the REAL challenge in all this.

If you, me and anyone else can come up with a good business model for all hardware manufacturers to adopt, you would see all jump in without much hesitation.

The first step (a difficult one, I might add), is to convince one to adopt the idea. When its proven highly successful, others will follow.

Companies don't like trying things that are too radical for their business model. They want someone else to try it out first, so they can understand the risks and benefits of such a move. The first attempts at a new business model will form good case studies for others to follow. (This is important: Plenty of case studies to convince and backup your point.)

One idea was the kernel/driver developers provide a service where hardware drivers are developed under NDA. The driver itself will be GPL. However, not many, (such as OpenBSD crew), like this approach.

It does give us an open driver for an "out of the box" experience, but it may take time to understand how the driver itself works. (Which isn't a bad compromise, as there is no binary blob crap tainting the installation).

I've talked to the person who introduced this idea, and asked what if one needs to modify, improve or fix issues?

He says: "If the driver properly describes how the hardware is supposed to behave, it will be self-evident.

As examples, look at all of the drivers in the kernel that are written without access to specs, or where only the original writer had specs. It hasn't stopped them from being improved and modified over the years."

So this *could* be one option.

When talking about mass

 

When talking about mass adoption, you have to take into account what masses are using their computers for. A system that consists of entirely free software, unfortunately, does introduce some inconveniences for the average user, even if all the hardware functions properly. There are still some bits missing.

For example, web pages that use Flash for something more complicated than displaying an animation will mostly be unusable with free Flash plugin. Although this seems like a minor thing, there are important sites that depend on Flash much (one of these sites is YouTube, for example, and I believe it is an important site in the context of mass adoption). Please correct me if I'm wrong and YouTube actually does work with free Flash plugin. Even if so, this doesn't change the argument.

So imagine an user that is here and there faced with these inconveniences. After some time, these problems will add up and affect how the user perceives the system. The user will probably then go back to proprietary software.

This issue is even more important when there are many hardware devices available on the market that won't work without proprietary drivers. These are many graphic cards, multipurpose printer/scanner devices, webcams, some players etc. Some of them won't work at all on free operating systems, due to non-standard interfaces and complete lack of drivers.

So the purpose of proprietary bits here is to eliminate some (most?) of the inconveniences that trouble the user. Proprietary bits don't open the door to mass adoption completely, but they open them a little and make the adoption a bit faster. In these circumstances, I would be satisfied with seeing mass adoption of GNU/Linux even with some essential proprietary bits, and companies would soon start providing drivers that work on GNU/Linux (free or not).

In this situation, you would still be free to choose a completely free system, and users that need features or hardware that only proprietary software supports at the moment could use these proprietary bits.

Converting hardware businesses takes a long time, these businesses are inert and don't tend to change because they are doing well this way, as Anonymous pointed out. I am afraid that mass adoption must happen first, and then these businesses will follow, but only by supporting the new OS at first, not by providing hardware details or free drivers. So changing hardware businesses in order to cause mass adoption looks like upside-down solution to me, it's hard to make it work that way.

I think that what most GNU/Linux distributions are already doing is good enough to result in mass adoption, given some time - providing reliable operating system with some proprietary bits (either by default or as an easy to install add-on). Use of GNU/Linux is increasing, more and more schools and governments are switching to free software and there are some hardware vendors that preinstall GNU/Linux emerging (again, as a result of use of GNU/Linux, not the other way around).

I believe that mass adoption will happen in a way stated in the title of your article, "one GNU/Linux PC at a time". It is already happening. With more users, there will be more contributors and hardware vendors supporting free software, while the influence of proprietary software will slowly diminish. Unless some artificial obstacles are put on the way of free software, free software will prevail.

We should focus on fighting the biggest threats to free software, such as DRM and software patents, and push free standards and free formats. If we eliminate these obstacles, mass adoption is inevitable.

Quote: What I mean is: how

Quote:

What I mean is: how would you convince management of a manufacturer that supporting and adapting to opensource processes is beneficial for all parties? How does it benefit them specifically?

Well there are a few rather obvious benefits; less licensing expenses, wide community feedback, ability to bundle much more with PCs and advertise this value, even make their own special customizations to the software in order to provide a unique experience with their PCs. In short, all of the things that they can't do with Windows because they don't have the freedom and source code to do so. I can't possibly name all the possibilities.

Not to mention that they would be more independent since GNU/Linux is really a community, not a single corporation pulling their own strings like Microsoft. There is simply more freedom in it for them too.

Quote:

If you, me and anyone else can come up with a good business model for all hardware manufacturers to adopt, you would see all jump in without much hesitation.

I think the business model is already here, but they just haven't been convinved yet that they should go for it. This business model, as seen above, is quite open ended too, leaving *them* and anyone else the ability to experiment.

However, we shouldn't *only* watch at the major computer vendors. We should promote small ones which already pre-install GNU/Linux, not to mention building our own GNU/Linux computer businesses. This way we send a clear message "either you do it or they will". The point is in creating and expanding this new market one way or another, and we have to start somewhere, which doesn't necessarily have to be with a big boost from Dell, HP or Lenovo.

Quote:

Companies don't like trying things that are too radical for their business model. They want someone else to try it out first, so they can understand the risks and benefits of such a move. The first attempts at a new business model will form good case studies for others to follow. (This is important: Plenty of case studies to convince and backup your point.)

Sure, and there already are companies selling GNU/Linux. Ask them. They may not be major corporations, but they apparently keep themselves healthy, like System76. They sure could provide some case studies.

Hmm, maybe we should interview someone from System76. Eye

Quote:

It does give us an open driver for an "out of the box" experience, but it may take time to understand how the driver itself works. (Which isn't a bad compromise, as there is no binary blob crap tainting the installation).

Well that does seem like a good solution, if it results with Free Software drivers and expanding of hardware support. Of course, it only compliments the effort towards selling GNU/Linux PCs, not replaces it.

The thing is that selling GNU/Linux PCs is the key, no matter what. If you say it can't be done then well that's bad, because it *has* to be done for GNU/Linux to prevail. And no, putting in proprietary software wont get you there.

stojic wrote:When talking

stojic wrote:

When talking about mass adoption, you have to take into account what masses are using their computers for. A system that consists of entirely free software, unfortunately, does introduce some inconveniences for the average user, even if all the hardware functions properly. There are still some bits missing.

How many bits are missing on a default Windows PC? How convenient it is for a user who just shelled out his money for a PC, to have to shell out some more again for productive applications?

I think people are overblowing the "some bits are missing" point a bit too much. People in the Windows land have been living with some incredible inconveniences already! Just give them that "just works" GNU/Linux PC and then ask them how convenient it is. We first have to get to that point though.

stojic wrote:

For example, web pages that use Flash for something more complicated than displaying an animation will mostly be unusable with free Flash plugin.

Yes, and it is incredibly easier to install flash if they need to than to shell out another hundred of bucks for Microsoft Office to become productive. Again, it's an overblown disadvantage. What I don't want to see is boxes with pre-installed flash, but if someone offers easy access to flash (and similar stuff), but with a warning that it is proprietary (plus a scary EULA Eye ), then I can live with that.

The thing is that these little inconveniences are nothing compared to the inconvenience people were going through on their Windows PCs, right after they bought them.

stojic wrote:

This issue is even more important when there are many hardware devices available on the market that won't work without proprietary drivers.

So? Not everything works with Apple either, heck some things don't work too well even with Windows. The computer, or a third party, can set up an easy to read and access hardware database, linked to some GUI on their new system, which would guide these users towards buying only supported hardware. They should be informed that by buying these devices they will work out of the box even without having to install any drivers, which is again much more convenient than anything on Windows.

stojic wrote:

So the purpose of proprietary bits here is to eliminate some (most?) of the inconveniences that trouble the user. Proprietary bits don't open the door to mass adoption completely, but they open them a little and make the adoption a bit faster.

The only reason why have I considered the idea of accepting proprietary bits before is because I thought maybe they would be absolutely necessary, mandatory even, to pushing GNU/Linux to mass adoption. Now I am not convinced about that at all. No, proprietary bits are not the answer. Their value, which you describe, in supposedly adding convenience (while removing it in some other area such as support, quality and development, not to mention freedom), is simply not worth it compared to the value of rejecting them, which is sending clear messages to hardware vendors that if they want our support, they have to support us first (and not only hardware support, software support too).

But if we still allow leeway to proprietary stuff, we'll always have vendors second guessing their decision to support Free Software, because they didn't get a loud clear signal from our community about what exactly we expect from them.

stojic wrote:

Converting hardware businesses takes a long time, these businesses are inert and don't tend to change because they are doing well this way, as Anonymous pointed out.

Read above reply. Smiling They are not the only ones in this game, even if they're the biggest. If we can't start with them we can start with small vendors who already sell GNU/Linux PCs, as well as our own businesses.

So, Stojic, shall we build a GNU/Linux PC business in Croatia? Eye

stojic wrote:

I am afraid that mass adoption must happen first, and then these businesses will follow, but only by supporting the new OS at first, not by providing hardware details or free drivers. So changing hardware businesses in order to cause mass adoption looks like upside-down solution to me, it's hard to make it work that way.

But we've already achieved the critical amount of hardware support needed to start with GNU/Linux PC businesses because we *can* build a few lines of very good and useful PCs today without using unsupported hardware.

The problem is, mass adoption simply cannot happen otherwise, and again (and I really can't emphasize this enough); proprietary bits will not make you ready for mass adoption, never, not until people are able to buy their PCs with GNU/Linux on it. Proprietary fat is not the answer we are looking for..

stojic wrote:

I think that what most GNU/Linux distributions are already doing is good enough to result in mass adoption, given some time - providing reliable operating system with some proprietary bits (either by default or as an easy to install add-on). Use of GNU/Linux is increasing, more and more schools and governments are switching to free software and there are some hardware vendors that preinstall GNU/Linux emerging (again, as a result of use of GNU/Linux, not the other way around).

Yes, as a result of use of GNU/Linux, because we have the critical support in the world to start with PC vendors. But now that we are at this point already, do we need to compromise with proprietary software? I say we don't and that this wont get us too far anyway.

Do you think the reason people use GNU/Linux as much as they do today is because of proprietary bits? Think again, there's much more to it than that, to a point that this alone doesn't mean all that much.

stojic wrote:

We should focus on fighting the biggest threats to free software, such as DRM and software patents, and push free standards and free formats. If we eliminate these obstacles, mass adoption is inevitable.

We sure should, and bringing GNU/Linux to the masses is part of that effort. It will be much harder to eliminate these obstacles if our operating system still remains on sidelines. With that much I agree with the WD201. I just believe proprietary compromise is not the way to move from sidelines into the mainstream. Besides, we are all about freedom, that opposite ideal to the ones behind DRM and software patents. The best way we can promote this ideal is by practicing it ourselves, which includes rejecting all proprietary bits. Our message is weakened if we don't.

And the point is we don't even have to because it wont bring us to the mainstream, and certainly wont bring freedom to the mainstream.

Fortune Favours the Brave

 

I like the bold approach, but I'm not sure how easy it would be to set up a rival to transnational titans like Dell, Lenovo etc.

However.

Consider the amount of small stores selling PC's. Many of them already build boxes from scratch, importing components from far and wide. There's great flexibility there, but we've almost a cartesian product of every combination, and that is not something that is easy to manage.

What if there was a way to bring these guys together, to focus on a few lines which they could perfect. There are lots of individual self-build efforts out there, but what's really needed is a centre of gravity to bring them together in critical mass.

Anonymous mentioned case studies, take that to it's conclusion. We're talking brand. We're talking franchise. Look at the pizza, coffee, print, fast-food franchises out there.

Start with a few stores working together to get their product line down. Straight away they'll get volume discounts they could not achieve alone. Collaborating online they share their findings in everything from supply chain issues to how many customer returns they get due to given components.

See the recognisable logo and brand name on all their stores. See the franchise developed to a point of being a free pc store in a box. See the customer self-support and feedback forums at the branded website. See the customer order form absolutely brimming with pre-installed free software options. See the compatible mobile phone and pda lines spring up. See the ogg conversion sidelines.

This baby has legs. Someone can make a lot of money, first-mover advantage is there for the taking...

Incentive for Freedom

 

how would you convince management of a manufacturer that supporting and adapting to opensource processes is beneficial for all parties? How does it benefit them specifically?

Intel did it with their graphics drivers. At least one company believes it can be done without harming profits. Here's why:

When hardware makers write drivers and then push them into the Free Software communities, they can effectively reduce the amount of money they use to maintain their drivers. For instance, rather than paying for every bit of change done to their drivers, they can allow the X.org community to tweak, edit and improve them. This raises quality without raising costs (and often while lowering them).

The comapnies could then re-invest this money in development and improvement of their hardware, giving them a competitive edge over their rivals.

Free Software drivers can be ported. When a wifi manufacturer limits their drivers to Windows, they can penitrate 100% of the Windows market and no more. A company that releases Free drivers can then capture the Linux, BSD, Solaris, BeOS and whatever else markets. This, in turn, means they sell more products.

The third large reason I see is public relations. People know Google "won't be Evil" and people really do trust Google. Microsoft, being notoriously closed, is mistrusted, even by people who ar staunch Windows advocates. Companies that people like sell more products.

Right now, Intel is the only 3D graphics comapany selling to the Free Software crowd because they're the ONLY option for staunch Free software supporters. If ATI were to Free their drivers, Intel would their grip on that market. This wouldn't be because of an anti-competition monopoly, but simply, Intel is the only graphics maker that is catering to a somewhat niche market. ATI and nVidia can easy expand into it, and until they do, they're refusing to accept customers. That point, made very bluntly to a CEO or CFO will make them think for a moment, at the very least.

Right on! This is actually

Right on!

This is actually something we've scratched in our (Libervis) coop forum. If enough people with some money to invest could get together, we could come up with product line specifications (basically blueprints for various lines of computers), share this over the internet and collaborate on improving them, finding suitable hardware etc. and then build and sell them in our local places under the same name and brand.

For example, if there would be 5 people for a start, living respectively in Croatia, Netherlands, UK, USA and Germany, in all of these countries we would be selling PCs under the same brand, with a same logo and same specifications from the start. This sort of business could be bootstrapped, building and selling one PC at a time, but if we would manage to get enough orders, enough money could start pouring in to build more PCs at a time (2, 5, 10, hire some employees and then even more etc.).

And of course there would be an unified website, translated in all the languages of countries we sell those PCs in, with support forums and everything, the kind of thing you describe. Smiling

It is a possibility, but we need people who can invest in this sort of thing (I might barely be able to by 2008 maybe) and cooperate over the internet. Of course we need people who know how to build computers, do some research and know GNU/Linux well.

libervisco wrote: I think

 
libervisco wrote:

I think people are overblowing the "some bits are missing" point a bit too much. People in the Windows land have been living with some incredible inconveniences already! Just give them that "just works" GNU/Linux PC and then ask them how convenient it is. We first have to get to that point though.

I agree. However, I somewhat disagree on the idea surrounding this point.

I hear "Linux Adoption" thrown around a lot, but I think that seriously misses the point. I couldn't give a rat's tail if GNU/Linux is adopted. I want Free Software adoption.

Rather than looking at YouTube and saying "Users will be inconvenienced by this" we should ask "Why do users not see that YouTube is bad?". We can give people all of the Free alternatives we can crank out, but until they begin to value freedom, we will constantly be overcoming "the next YouTube".

I've made this arguement on here before, but I think it really comes down to this for me. "If Freedom isn't the reason to do it, I don't want GNU/Linux adopted." A non-Free Linux does NOTHING for users OR the GNU/Linux community.

libervisco wrote:

If someone offers easy access to flash (and similar stuff), but with a warning that it is proprietary (plus a scary EULA Eye-wink ), then I can live with that.

I disagree. And timing plays a HUGE part in this. I am at work at this moment, and a Norton Anti-virus subscription just ran out on on of my co-workers' XP machines. This spurred both her and another co-worker to install AVG. During the process, I was watching when the AVG License Terms popped up and within 2 seconds she said "Yes, I agree". I asked "Did you read those?" and she said "Too many words."

That's why I disagree that making them easily accessible with a warning is okay. Non-Free software is a burden to manage. It restricts users. It SHOULD be a pain in the ass to install, because it's a pain in the ass to deal with.

stojic wrote:

Converting hardware businesses takes a long time, these businesses are inert and don't tend to change because they are doing well this way, as Anonymous pointed out

This may be true in massive conglomerate corporations. However, those kind of businesses are actually rare (at least, here in the USA). By far, the vast majority of businesses are small to medium sized. My company has about 35 people, a big chunk of them sales. In the office, we've got a core of 7 people. We're not a Free Software business, but in the year I've worked here, Free Software has become more and more important. Businesses like control over their services. When my CEO demands of me that we have a certain kind of web traffic statistic to show our customers, and our proprietary "solution" doesn't do it, Free Software shines. To someone who wants NOTHING more that to spread Free Software, there's always an opportunity, and a reason.

In a year, we've replaced MS Office with Open Office. Our servers are now running Debian without contrib and non-free.

I've also been here long enough that even the CEO shudders at the idea of depending on a non-Free solution now.

Kevin Dean wrote: I hear

Kevin Dean wrote:

I hear "Linux Adoption" thrown around a lot, but I think that seriously misses the point. I couldn't give a rat's tail if GNU/Linux is adopted. I want Free Software adoption.
(...)

That's actually exactly how I'm thinking as well. The reason why I mention GNU/Linux specifically so much is that it is still the one Free OS which has the best chance of getting there. It basically spearheads the overall Free Software adoption.

But of course, this is why I oppose adoption of non-free software with it, and instead say that computer should be built only with Free Software supported hardware, and popular distros should come only with Free Software by default.

Kevin Dean wrote:

That's why I disagree that making them easily accessible with a warning is okay. Non-Free software is a burden to manage. It restricts users. It SHOULD be a pain in the ass to install, because it's a pain in the ass to deal with.

Well, considering that we're obviously coming from the same direction, I would agree with you here. I certainly wouldn't be the one providing the easy access to this software myself, but given how things stand someone likely would, even if I actively oppose this. And I would, in fact, oppose this and advise people not to use flash. I don't have flash and I can live with it. I download YouTube vidoes using KeepVid.com and avoid flash based sites.

No matter what, it is still not such a big inconvenience as people make it to be, compared to the inherent inconveniences of Windows. And it is safer for ones system and freedom to be without it. If we promote freedom as one of the biggest selling points of GNU/Linux, people may appreciate it more and start viewing the unavailability of flash on their system as a feature, not an inconvenience.

Kevin Dean wrote:

I've also been here long enough that even the CEO shudders at the idea of depending on a non-Free solution now.

That's excellent to hear. It shows that even business people can be well tuned to the idea of Free Software and just how beneficial it can be.

Quote: I've made this

 
Quote:

I've made this arguement on here before, but I think it really comes down to this for me. "If Freedom isn't the reason to do it, I don't want GNU/Linux adopted." A non-Free Linux does NOTHING for users OR the GNU/Linux community.

If I am not allowed to run any software I want or need on MY hardware am I still operating in a "free" environment or simply exchanging masters?

I am not new to this argument so save the 101 stuff, I could quote it to you. But in the heat of this argument I have seen some comments that have seriously given me pause, and have caused me to rethink some of the fundamental issues of computer freedom.

When MS actively tried to stop people from modifying hardware that they bought and paid for, people went nuts, and rightfully so. "How dare they tell me want I can and can't do with a piece of hardware that I bought". However, some of the arguments surrounding running proprietary and free software side by side in a Linux environment is sounding uncomfortably close to MS logic as far as I am concerned. I am free to use whatever software the powers that be allow me to. It does not matter at all to me what names the "powers" go by.

Whether you choose to use open codecs or not is your business, this is freedom. If I feel like I need closed codecs and if I also prefer to use Linux and a host of other free software. I should be able to. It seems to me that there are a lot of people in the Linux community that would prefer to make those 2 things mutually exclusive, or with a wink, tell me, no problem just break the law (or move to another country I guess). I don't see a lot of freedom in that. "Hatred often turns people into the very thing they hate". I have never applied that saying to software before but lately I have wondered if it is not a true statement in this realm as well.

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