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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

stojic wrote: Please

stojic wrote:

Please correct me if I'm wrong and YouTube actually does work with free Flash plugin.

Yes it does as of this past week thanks to Benjamin Otte and Swfdec 0.4.3. This shows that the Free Software community can work to overcome the problems of proprietary web standards.

I'm tired too

 

I am tired of being painted up like a troll if I don't tow the company line here. That is what I was opining about in the first post and now you just verified it, unfortunately. Just to set the record straight, everything I have ever written for public consumption has been under either GPL or Creative Commons. I do happen to believe that things I create are mine however, whether I create them with my mind or with my hands. I therefore, decide on its distribution and use. If that is GPL then I expect those terms to be honored if CC same deal. Your knee jerking to the word stealing tells me more about you than about me I think. Call it whatever you want, but the stuff is not there for the taking, every license I have ever seen including every free one has terms and conditions of use. To nit pick and say "yeah but its not stealing", I say "whatever helps you sleep dude". The fact is, there is, and should be, such a thing as intellectual property, but I will be the first to point how many ways it has been abused particularly in recent years as the old media are being supplemented with new, that are much harder to control. And huge corporations are driving through changes to laws that are self serving and ultimately destructive.
Now I know there are a lot of people doing a lot of great things for good reasons, but when I read some of these posts, it is often hard not to think the desire to get something for nothing is as much the driving force behind some of these "freedom" discussions as anything truly noble.

So I suppose we're

So I suppose we're ultimately on the same side here. I however believe you are de-emphasizing the negative implications of terms like "stealing" and "intellectual property". Let that be the only point of our disagreement.

Stealing has a direct implication of physical deprivation. Intellectual property directly implies that intellectual works can be compared to physical property.

Both of this is wrong if you ask me.

The reason the term "intellectual property" is abused is because it was created for the very purpose of being abused. It lumps together laws and concepts which shouldn't be lumped.

And, if you were really considered a troll you wouldn't get a response you did. You would get a warning and/or deletion.

Give yourself more respect then instead of branding your own self lower than you really were branded. Eye

Thank you

note to Anonymous

 

Anonymous, would you please make more clear whose posts you are commenting on?

Anonymous wrote:

I am tired of being painted up like a troll if I don't tow the company line here.

Something to think about: you're the one who introduced the word "troll" into this thread. In the very post I'm quoting from.

Quote:

I do happen to believe that things I create are mine however, whether I create them with my mind or with my hands. I therefore, decide on its distribution and use.

Such is copyright law. No need to "believe" it, it's truth. But of course you mean you think if an idea appears in your mind, you own it. I ask you: if you had been locked away without any possibility for communication with other humans, would you be able to come up with ideas that are worth anything? Your ideas are rearrangements of previously existing ideas, which would mean many more people could claim partial ownership of your ideas. Just because you had to take effort to do something doesn't mean you own the result. If you run a mile, does that make you own the road?

Quote:

Your knee jerking to the word stealing tells me more about you than about me I think.

Well, I don't know about the others, but I would like you to be more precise so we could have a sensible discussion. As I understand it, stealing implies an object changes owner, and would still be stealing if there was no law against it. Copyright violation is fraud.

Quote:

The fact is, there is, and should be, such a thing as intellectual property

Enlighten us and tell us why it should exist. These laws were created a long time after we left the trees, humans can be creative without them just fine.

Quote:

Now I know there are a lot of people doing a lot of great things for good reasons, but when I read some of these posts, it is often hard not to think the desire to get something for nothing is as much the driving force behind some of these "freedom" discussions as anything truly noble.

Would you please quote some bits from posts that make you think so? Your thoughts add little value to a discussion if you don't back up your claims, especially when your "thoughts" are insults and accusations. So far all you've done is throwing mud and trying to wash that same mud off yourself by claiming you support and use GPL and creative commons licenses. You also seem to have tried to get yourself some geek credibility by claiming you created a slackware based linux distribution, although that could have been a different Anonymous, who knows?

PS Before you say it, let me tell you I'm not aggressive against people who think different. However, I do dislike mudslingers and whiners.

 
Quote:

Honestly, I've been a Linux developer for over two years now, and I think the only thing preventing more users from switching is the "GNU/Linux" zealots who spend more time fighting holy wars and explaining that "free software" isn't gratis but rather libre rather than actually improving the code in the first place.

Why can't there be both kinds of people? If there shouldn't be, why don't you tell all the free software news reporters and technical supporters to shut up and write code?

doesn't matter

 
tbuitenh wrote:

Hardware manufacturers don't put those "designed for windows" stickers on their products because it helps sell them. It doesn't, because everything has those logos. The real reason is that microsoft pays them to use those logos (or offers a lower price for windows or whatever). If a manufacturer advertises a computer in a newspaper or magazine, and puts the "designed for windows" logo in that advertisement, microsoft will pay for part of the advertising costs.

That may be, but that doesn't make the reasoning for helping sales in the "tux sticker" proposal from Simon any less true.

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