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In an ideal world, people would say "oh, Linux doesn't work with this, so I wont buy this hardware". In the real world, they shoot the other way.
You cant call that inducing anymore than having a Windows version of GIMP is inducing the person to use Windows.
FSFLA: Linux kernel is "open core"
Posted Nov 11, 2010 6:56 UTC (Thu) by lxoliva (subscriber, #40702)
If that is so, that's a reality we'd better try to change.
A number of people at least try a 100% Free distro before buying a computer or peripheral device. If more people did this, we'd see fewer users trapped to hardware that deprives them of freedom.
Now, if the hardware was already chosen and it can't be returned, the goal becomes to avoid spreading the mistake. If the user remains unaware that the device is a programmable computer programmed to control her and limit what she can do with it, odds are she will recommend it to others, so that's an argument against making it just work. Some slight inconvenience, such as requiring drivers and firmware to be obtained from the vendor, media, a third-party repository, and having to do that every time the system is reinstalled, will not prevent the user from using the device she's stuck with if she wants to, which is ok since the harm is already done and the monster is already fed, but it will help avoid the repetition of the mistake when the user upgrades or replaces the computer.
The approach taken by Linux-libre is a bit better than that, in that the driver will recognize a device that requires non-Free firmware instead of silently failing to work, and userland can then explain the problem to the user, and then the user can make an informed decision as to whether to seek a Free driver that will work with the non-Free firmware, or refrain from installing non-Free Software on their system, perhaps by replacing the hardware component.
Posted Nov 11, 2010 10:32 UTC (Thu) by cesarb (subscriber, #6266)
> and then the user can make an informed decision as to whether to seek a Free driver that will work with the non-Free firmware, or refrain from installing non-Free Software on their system, perhaps by replacing the hardware component.
There is another option you seem to be ignoring: the user can refrain from using free software on their system, and go back to whichever operating system they were using before. And the user will recommend against free systems to others.
There is a reason the most popular distribution makes it easy (though I think it makes it too easy) to enabled closed drivers when the open option is not available (or sometimes even when it is). It is a bait: by making the distribution work very well, even if they have to sacrifice a bit of purity, they entice the user to use more and more free software instead of closed alternatives.
Yes, it is a bait, used in the exact opposite direction that you are fearing: instead of luring users to non-free, they are luring users to free.
Posted Nov 11, 2010 11:28 UTC (Thu) by sitaram (subscriber, #5959)
dang... that is what I was trying to say but you said it much better!
Posted Nov 11, 2010 11:55 UTC (Thu) by lxoliva (subscriber, #40702)
At this rate, eventually, we'll have a proportionally thin layer of Free Software surrounded by non-Free drivers and applications, and then I wonder whether you'll be asking yourself what the point was of trying to convince users to switch from one non-Free system to another in the first place.
Me, I prefer to tell users about software freedom first, get them to realize it's important, and make them jump when they're ready to. I don't fault any victims for finding out their current computers are enemies of their freedoms, or for installing pieces of software that will make them work as they wish, as long as they're aware of the problem and display an interest in correcting the purchasing mistake next time. If they're not interested in freedom, what's the point of suggesting them to go through the trouble of replacing one non-Free system with another? They might as well keep on using the non-Free system they're used to, perhaps with a bunch of Free Software applications that run on it. Yeah, they won't be as Free, but remember, in this case they were not interested in freedom.
Posted Nov 11, 2010 13:48 UTC (Thu) by cesarb (subscriber, #6266)
I think this post of yours is perhaps the one which explains your position the clearest.
But it sounds as if you believe non-free is some sort of cancer which will spread if given even the thinnest of wedges, and push free software into the tiniest of niches. I am not that pessimistic.
I believe that, instead of only allowing a perfect system with no non-free components, it is better to attack on multiple layers at the same time, while accepting some temporary imperfection. While one team deals with freeing the core of an operating system kernel, another set of teams can deal with freeing the drivers, yet another set can deal with freeing the firmware, and in a corner another team is working on creating completely free hardware, and so on, all working independently and at the same time. Each team has to allow for some non-free parts while good free alternatives aren't available.
I also do not think the situation is getting worse. For a while, you had to use closed-source drivers if you wanted decent 3D acceleration on common desktops; nowadays, we are near having free decent 3D acceleration on common desktops, both with help of hardware vendors (AMD and Intel) and via sheer reverse engineering (nVidia). The situation with wireless drivers is similar; nowadays, even Broadcom has started helping (see http://lwn.net/Articles/404248/). The synergy advantages of free software start showing; with the free graphics drivers, we have kernel modesetting, and now even the kernel debugger can work with them. And I do not doubt that, as soon as nouveau is good enough that people do not feel the need to install the "official" nVidia drivers, the mechanisms which make the non-free driver easier to install will start to get neglected.
Finally, I do not think we must tell users about the philosophical side first. I myself started by using DJGPP, and only later learned of the philosophy. If you force users to learn about software freedom first, you will lose a lot of people who would learn about it later. And even if they do not learn or do not care about it, isn't it better, if only because of the network effects, that they use free software, even if only for part of their needs?
Posted Nov 12, 2010 2:57 UTC (Fri) by cmccabe (guest, #60281)
Posted Nov 12, 2010 3:25 UTC (Fri) by lxoliva (subscriber, #40702)
Can't lose something I don't have.
> isn't it better, if only because of the network effects, that they use free software, even if only for part of their needs
For themselves, yes, it's better. For the Free Software movement, I'd say it isn't: if they're taught that short-term practical reasons are the reason to try Free Software, that will also get them away from software freedom when short-term practical advantages are present in non-Free Software. If they're taught that sacrificing their freedoms is ok, that's what they will do when offered bait that shines of short-term practical reasons. I.e., just when we'd most need them to stand firm with us for software freedom, they'd detract, because they haven't got the right message.
It is true that a few of those who start by learning the short-erm practical advantages will see through that and find out about the deeper, long-term practical and ethical reasons. But a majority doesn't. And when the majority doesn't stand for our values, our whole community is vulnerable: we lose, because the network effects, instead of favoring our goals of eliminating the non-Free Software oppression, play against them.
I wish I was just pessimistic, but a social experiment started in 1998 shows just how perverse that is. A group you might be familiar with launched a campaign to promote Free Software on its short-term practical benefits, leaving ethical values out of the picture. It got very popular, and the result is that a lot of software those who subscribe to that ideology produce is not quite Free, and many of them will attack and ridicule those who stand for software freedom.
I'd much rather the Free Software movement had grown slowly but surely, just not as slowly as it does now because of the detrimental effects of that campaign.
Posted Nov 12, 2010 3:38 UTC (Fri) by lxoliva (subscriber, #40702)
I don't, and the difference is quite significant.
Cancer is a natural, biological phenomenom. As harmful as it is, it has no will of its own. The damage is not intentional, so it's not unethical, and there's no economic drive for the cancer to spread the harm.
Depriving others of software freedom is an artificial phenomenom. Many who engage in such a harmful practice do so intentionally, so as to obtain an economic advantage, including power over others. That is unethical, and the gained advantages imply it will tend to grow and concentrate power unless it meets strong resistance that renders the unethical behavior disadvantageous.
The Free Software movement is a movement to build up that resistance. Please help us!
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