Is the Free Software Movement (FSM) Too Insular?

After all, most of you reading this will assume that the “Free” part of the Free Software Movement to refer to currency and not ideals. You wouldn’t be wrong for initially believing this, free is used as a moniker to highlight stuff that costs nothing. The only time you’re not seeing “Free Beer” is when you’re reading about “Free Speech”. The Free Software Movement is a group that argues for the rights of software users to be able to modify and have access to their software in the same way that owners of cars have rights to change absolutely anything about it.

Why Should I Care About Free Software Rights?

Customization options in programs are not the same thing as the complete rights that you have for your car. Customization options in a program are pretty much equivalent to the customization options for a car at the dealer. Imagine not being able to swap out your tires, add a gas cap with a lock, go to a neighborhood mechanic to fix your vehicle or to do so yourself? The purpose of the FSM is to protect the rights of software users and to bring parity to the ownership rights of software and hardware.

Now you may be asking yourself how does this affect you, why does it matter? Well besides asserting your freedoms it would allow you more choice in the software that you use. Let’s take something popular that everyone likes, something extreme, so that I can illustrate this point to you in a way that can help you get that light bulb shining if it hasn’t already.

Imagine that Windows XP was free software.

No, not free as in no monetary cost but that it was free as in free speech. The way to accomplish such a thing in software is to have the source code available and the rights to use the code. Microsoft plans to end support of Windows XP on April 8, 2014. If the software was both open source and free then the community of users that have not abandoned it yet could modify the software as needed for their own uses and continue to keep their operating system supported. Support covers everything from the hardware to security. Without it you’re essentially stuck with the equivalent of a game console as a pc that will forever be stuck in time as an unsupported lump of bricks.

People didn’t like Windows Vista. Whether it was fair or not is another argument but people hated Vista and did not want to update. Just how much can trust your software supporter if they’re obsoleting your software while trying to quickly kill support for their old products? It was only reluctantly that Microsoft has decided to extend the support cycle of Windows XP. But wait, there’s more.

Windows 7 has been a success. Even so, it at best has a level of market share that is about equal with that of Windows XP. As Windows XP nears the end of its’ support period, Microsoft is trying to force a user interface change in their software that you may not agree with.

Keeping Your Options Open

There is nothing forcing you to upgrade, but if you’d like to stay well protected against malware, receive the latest versions of web browsers or flash, or retain a decent amount of available and maintained software for use then you will need to find another option. You have lost the right to keep your recently purchased computer relevant because progress must continue and it costs money to do so. Nevermind that you may be able to find a group to keep you running, you must choose what you will do.

The FSM is here to help you have alternatives that won’t force you to be booted. Both fortunately and unfortunately for them, there are as many alternatives that are free as in beer and as in speech. To anyone looking into it for the first time, they’ll believe that movement is all about cheap bastards wanting everything to be free as in free beer which just isn’t true.

Take a look at the excerpt from this article the references Free Software.

“Admitting that the pros for Linux probably outweighed the cons, Stallman claims that priced software, in any guise, is a bad thing.”

The author got it completely wrong. Stallman was speaking out against the closed nature of most gaming software, not the pricing. I’d expect this in passing from a regular person but not from a journalist. If you’re going to be looking into free software, just know that there is a lot of FUD out there.

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2 thoughts on “Is the Free Software Movement (FSM) Too Insular?

  1. I know its free as in free speech free, but don’t you think if this actually happens it would affect the price of said software? Its nothing like a car/dealership relationship as a car is just one car and can’t be copied and shared with the entire world. And wouldn’t this open up more room for malware/viruses?

    P.S. 7th paragraph “You have lost te right” get on that.

    • Thanks for commenting Daniel, I’m sorry about posting with a grammatical error, I’ll be sure to fix that right away.

      As far as free (I’m just going to call it libre from here on out in this comment and let free refer to price) software affecting the price of the software, it definitely would in one way or another. Whether that’s good or bad depends upon which position you’re in and how it all unfolds from there.

      Red Hat releases their operating systems for free and as libre software but charge for support. Their customers are pretty much businesses. That same can be said of Canonical, their Ubuntu os is given out for free but they make money from donations, companies like Google buying support for the software and from the sales of hardware via deals with OEM’s.

      Mozilla makes money off the ads in Firefox and previously Seamonkey. Google releases Android for no money under the Apache Software license but makes money from licensing their services (Search, maps, Play Store, etc). Google also uses the licensing of their services to offer a somewhat similar experience across all devices and to keep binary compatibility between any device using their branding.

      Valve releases their Source engine as free software and with no price so that they can scope out talent and buy them. ID Software releases their engines as free software when they’ve moved on to the next and don’t see any more major money making opportunities. It used to be released in a manner that would help to improve the mods based upon their game and had the side effect of them choosing to compete with themselves instead of others by giving every person the opportunity to make software based upon their work.

      Crossover is software that allows for running Windows software on non-windows systems. It’s sold for a price and is libre software. The libre version is released as wine which has been continuously released for over a decade now. World of Goo is libre software as well but still sold for a price. Then you have the freeware/shareware model where you get access to everything after a sample.

      Just like the bad guys can see the source, so can the good guys. Most infections spread due to people not using up to date software. a lot of malware is created based upon the bus fix reports that reveal where the security issues came from and then are attacked. TYhere are zero day adn new exploits to be used without the software authors notice, but those are much more rare and less likely. If it was very likely to happen then Firefox, Safari and Chrome would be greatly helping to infect the entire world right now.

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