February 17, 2019

.comment: Freedom's Just Another Word for Do It My Way - page 4

So What Is Free, Anyway?

  • February 12, 2001
  • By Dennis E. Powell

It's all about politics, which is the science of coercive systems. Coercion. Using whatever leverage you can amass to force someone, who otherwise wouldn't, to do what you want. Microsoft's employment of strong-arm tactics against independent developers has a rich and well documented history. The "Free" Software movement has a pretty colorful history in this regard as well -- ask the folks at TrollTech. Ask the developers of KDE. They were coerced into doing something that they would not have otherwise done. Has the community benefited? Well, no. The "Free" Software movement has, because it has another bloody scalp on its belt. But it has improved neither QT nor KDE, and an argument can be made that it has hindered both. It has certainly deprived a number of would-be users easy access to those products, because users of at least one distribution could not get those packages where they normally got their software.

So it comes down to this: Are you more interested in having a wide variety of software available to run on your computer, or in helping some organization attain the power and control that it seeks? And if it's the latter, to whom do you want to give the control -- a hegemonistic corporation whose goals are strictly its own, or a batch of ivory-tower Bolsheviks who also do not have your best interests in mind?

Or would you rather make the choice yourself? You decide whether you want a particular application? You decide whether you need the source code for a particular app, or whether it suits your purposes just fine to have the binary alone? You decide whether you can endure an advertising banner in your browser, want to cough up $39 for the non-banner version, or say the hell with the whole thing?

That, friends and neighbors, is freedom, and anybody who tells you otherwise is hiding an agenda. Microsoft and "Free" Software are flip sides of the same coin. A plague on both of them.

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