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The Proprietary Curse

The Proprietary Curse

Proprietary, the one word that will send a shiver down any Free Software users spine, like Pandora's Box holding a whole wealth of curses inside just waiting to be unleashed. Any business can be proprietary, all they have to do is disallow you the luxury of having the source code, giving users no choice but to buy it through the simple fact that they have no choice but to buy it. You can pirate it to high heaven and still have enough people buying it to make a successful business, while you think you\'re sticking two fingers up to the system what you\'re really doing is becoming dependant on their software.

It's almost like a drug user will give you a free sample, once you become dependant on it their attitude soon changes, they're no longer you\'re friend, you want their stock? you buy it, it's as simple as that. It's an unfortunate side effect that keeps many people using proprietary products in this day and age, they feel like they can't give it up because they can't see a viable alternative to what they've become dependant on using to gain a level of productivity that's necessary.

Free Software threatened to break this ever increasing addiction, like a counselor they stood by your side and said, whenever you\'re ready. Can the drug dealers stand by and watch while some \"fresh nosed kid\" comes along and tries to get people off their products? There\'s not a chance in hell that they\'d stand back and take that, so they devise new and improved ways to market their products just to get you buying it again once more.

What\'s the drug dealers motive, does he care that you \"need\" the product? Does he want you to like him and become his friend? No, he wants your money, and that\'s exactly what proprietary is, the selling of a product that consumers think they need and making money from the product, all the while disallowing anyone who would want to make their own the ability to do so.

Microsoft is one such corporation, making you become dependant on their product and spreading lies about how \"evil\" the threat to them is to make people continue to buy their products. The only difference is that these tactics are called FUD tactics, Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt, any consumer with any one of these concerns about the alternatives is susceptible to it, make no mistake about that. Interestingly enough, a recent announcement revealed that Microsoft want\'s you to pirate their products, infact they\'re begging you to. Why? Because as long as you become dependant on their products you\'re in their grasp, it\'s only a matter of time before they figure out how to squeeze the money out of you.

Free Software has been around a long time, nearly 25 years give or take a few years, the GNU project was first started in 1983 by Richard Stallman, the goal was to create a complete operating system and the enthesis was always on freedom, the ability to run, modify, redistribute and improve the software anyway you see fit. Was the goal to provide software free of charge? No it wasn\'t, and any project can charge for free software just as long as they are providing the source code with the product rather than restricting users to a single binary package, the moment they restrict that freedom it becomes proprietary, not commercial, there\'s a big difference between \"commercial\" and \"proprietary\".

Anyone who has read the Halloween document\'s, leaked memos from the Microsoft Corporation, will know that Microsoft, just like any other company, wishes to put the competition out of business. What makes them different is that Microsoft doesn\'t wish to put the competition out of business by selling a better product, but see it as a direct business goal to do so, this means \"any way we can\". Their realization of the threat that Free Software poses is somewhat slack and underestimating, but well founded in the fact that they do recognize it as a threat, more so than they wish to have you believe.

In their recent attempts to thwart to Free Software movement, Microsoft recruited the services of the father of a popular GNU/Linux distro Gentoo, Daniel Robbins, when asked what his comments were on this issue he said he is moving to Redmond to help Microsoft \"understand open source and community-based projects\". Daniel Robbins had already left the Gentoo project in 2004, yet is still viewed by some as a traitor.

I\'m sure some believe he sold out, and some might believe he could actually make a difference, that\'s not for me to decide, what\'s important to note is that this all fits in nicely with Microsoft\'s \"embrace, extend, extinguish\" strategy, they wouldn\'t have recruited him had they not got some plans for him, and what i\'m sure of is that this will benefit Microsoft more than it will benefit Free Software.

For some it\'s a hobby, for most of us it\'s a lifestyle, while not buying their products may help us sleep better at night we must continue to think about the big picture and promote Free Software as a whole, not by bashing the competition, nor by promoting the fact that there are no costs involved, but by promoting the fact that Free Software means freedom, the freedom to choose, to do whatever you want with the software that you see fit, to not be boxed in and held hostage by a corporation\'s help desk.

How has Slackware gone for over 10 years and still has no sign of flailing, is it because people downloaded the iso\'s and then sent an email to say how grateful they were, or is it thanks to the people that buy the official cd set in order to get their favorite operating system while contributing to the project and the entire community as a whole. Free Software is profitable, but only desirably so when the values of the whole are embraced and respected.

We\'re not here to get a free ride, we\'re here because we have the freedom of choice, do your part, reject proprietary products, don\'t scowl at Free Software that charges a fee, and don\'t be afraid to recommend it to friends and family. How many people buy computers with Windows pre-loaded, do they know how to install the OS themselves? Most don\'t, and what you can do for anyone curious enough is to set it up for them, i\'m the computer guy of the family, my sister isn\'t exactly the kind of person who knows her IRQ\'s from her RS232\'s, yet she can quite happily jump on here and surf the web and the click of a menu and the loading of mozilla.

Afterall this is what it\'s all about, the spirit of the community, and it extends beyond bauds, bits and electrons. Here\'s to the spirit of the community.


Boycott Dell, HP, Gateway


Boycott Dell, HP, Gateway

Boycott the computer OEMs that don't offer consumers a non-Microsoft choice.

These OEMs are the culprits.
These OEMs are the reason the internet is full of zombied Windows machines spamming your mailbox.
These OEMs are the reason you have to waste time with antivirus software.

Blame the OEMs for installing a crap OS.

Re: Boycott Dell, HP, Gateway


HP has sold computers preinstalled with GNU/Linux since the middle of 2004, Dell sell computers preinstalled with GNU/Linux through it's partner Questar, yes, it's Lindows, but at least they're looking to satisfy the "computer illiterate" market with an operating system that will meet their "point and click" needs. They've also sold their servers with Red Hat as a standard.

The OEM's are not to blame, they already offer a choice that should any consumer want then they have that choice, it's not the OEM's fault if they offer that choice and the majority of consumers turn around and say, "no thanks, I'll stick with what I'm used to". This issue cannot be solved simply by pointing the finger and saying, this is your fault.

For one thing the OEM's are bound by contract to provide computers with the Windows operating system as standard unless the consumer specifically requests otherwise, but even then it wouldn't be cheaper as they have to cover the cost of the prearranged licencing agreement.

As long as they can meet their market needs with their products then they will be more than happy to do so, if you force it onto people they'll just turn around and say, "you're installing what onto my computer? ok thanks but I think I'll go elsewhere". Again it comes down to a persons choice to switch to that operating system or not at all, and the OEM's are simply meeting those requirements.

I'm sure some OEM's don't offer GNU/Linux preinstalled, but with even Wallmart selling computers preinstalled with GNU/Linux it's rather hard to believe that these particular companies are anywhere near the majority. Boycotting the OEM's doesn't even come close to a solution.

Re: Boycott Dell, HP, Gateway

I agree that OEM's do make spreading Free Software operating systems a bit harder even by mere providing of the Windows OS preinstalled, as most people wont think before choosing that one over the alternative they may not even knew existed.

However, it is indeed practically impossible, even silly to get OEM's drop windows support, if we're gonna think of them as businesses above all else, which they are. We thus simply cannot expect them to drop windows for GNU/Linux as long as there is certain market interest in Windows.

If there's anything we can urge OEM's to do than it's to market and promote its GNU/Linux options a bit better, spread the awareness, and then ride on the wawes of the rising GNU/Linux PC industry. Unlike with windows, they don't have to deal with expensive licensing issues when it comes to GNU/Linux and thus possibilities of what they can do with GNU/Linux, offers they can provide to the market, ways to build their identity and business on, are endless. I believe they should embrace and push it further than they may be doing at this time.

Anyhow, while increased OEM's support for GNU/Linux can greatly help, the key issue are people themselves, the end users. OEM's increased support can help make those end users more aware of the alternative operating system, but it is only half way through actually. People should be made aware of the greater issues at hand, why does GNU/Linux exists. They should be taught to value their freedom and recognize that this alternative OS enables them to be free bringing all the benefits that such a freedom provides (not the other way around as many open sourcers would go).

I like the "computer guy" idea. (I was actually talking about it before on irc). It is not the grandma that installs an operating system anyway and having making an OS installation grandma friendly is pretty much a missed goal. The OS is either preinstalled on the computer they bought or by a local "computer guy". So, of course, one way to get to the grandma with GNU/Linux is through the OEM's, the other is to get to the computer guy who will, once he discovers all the fruits of GNU/Linux be happy to install it on more than one of his "clients" computers (e.g. his grandma, "noobish" friends etc.). If this computer guy learned to value the freedom that such an operating system is built to provide, then we're hitting the high way. :-)

Great article!




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