Free Software and the real Freedom of Choice

Sat Dec 8, 2012

These are roughly 800 words, you could read this in about 4 minutes.

Free Software and politics... sucks.

I am a friend of Free Software, and in my daily life I heavily depend on it. As such, there are times when I am irritated by the attribute of people who publicly represent the Free Software movement.

It has always been my understanding that Free Software itself had been created to allow people the freedom of choice between proprietary, closed software, and free, open sourced software.

Freedom of Choice

People running Free Software and especially a Linux distribution of their choice can be considered able to make a choice themselves. Obviously by running a non Windows or Mac system they already have some experience which led to installing one of the many distributions.

Personally I have been using Windows and Mac OS for a few years, and for various shortcomings within these, I chose to use Arch Linux, Fedora, openSUSE, and also Ubuntu – both server and desktop releases.

It is moments such as reading post like the Free Software foundations post on Ubuntu and Spyware which clearly gives me the creeps.

Ubuntu sends that string to one of Canonical’s servers. (Canonical is the company that develops Ubuntu.)

I wonder what the big surprise is here. Canoncial is a company, which does invest in the development of Ubuntu and as such, it kind of seems obvious that they would would want some kind of digital feedback on their product.

After all, Ubuntu is a product, and not just a distribution. Thus as a user I kind of expect to see some kind of connection between the freely available Ubuntu releases, and a commercial interest.

The same applies to any other distribution, much like Fedora or openSUSE, just to name a few.

This is just like the first surveillance practice I learned about in Windows. My late friend Fravia told me that when he searched for a string in the files of his Windows system, it sent a packet to some server, which was detected by his firewall.

Now here I really start to wonder, if people actually read what their computer displays to them. Yes, Windows does send back data to Microsoft, and it is to be expected. It is a commercial product, and a sensible approach to verifying your product works, and to verify which parts of your software actually are used and how they are used, is to simply report back to the vendor.

When comparing Ubuntu and Windows in this regard, I can only see one difference that the article provided by the Free Software foundation clearly misses out: Windows actually tells you, that it would like to report usage information to Microsoft, which Ubuntu does not tell you.

The real difference here is asking permission from the user. Still, Ubuntu does at least allow every user to disable sending information to Canonical which from where I stand works for me.

The point is

What really pisses me off here is the reaction posted by the Free Software foundation, because it is by far not a honest reaction.

Free Software, and the movement behind it is driven by business interests. Say what you want, but you will have a hard time to prove it is not.

People and especially engineers are paid to work on Free Software out of the fact that these days providing a free, Open Sourced product is a valid approach to showcasing your companies abilities. And as a result of this presentation, and availability, you actually make money out of service, and extending your offer.

Why is it so hard to just acknowledge the fact of free software, and closed software existing on par? Each provide value to people, and I find it dishonorable to simply get angry on the simple facts of life.

Free Software does exist because there is someone paying for it. Free software does exist because there is a business value behind it, and there are people and companies making a living out of it.

Bashing that is worse to me than connecting free and closed software because in the end in real life, you chose what works for you. You do not use software because it is free or because it is commercial.

You use software because it solves an issue for you.

Dear Free Software foundation,

I want my freedom of choice, and I want to chose an option that simply works for me based upon its’ inherent quality.

Being forced to chose only on the state of being free or closed software is as bad as only being able to use closed source software after all.

With kind regards, Daniel S. Reichenbach

Tagged with: free-software

All code snippets in this post are made available to use under the MIT Licence.

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