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.