There's more than enough real, imagined and engineered divisions between all of us including race, religion, political beliefs, opinions on climate, vaccines, viruses, etc., and this divisiveness, very often fabricated for political purposes, works against our own progression as individuals and as a species. With the caveat of some radically different cultures, we are essentially one people on one planet and, as such, i think we ought to be helping each other far more often than arguing with one another. That said, i'm going to propose what i think is a logical reason for creating another division of sorts; one between those who use free software and those who do not.
Users of proprietary computer operating systems, such as Windows, may think that free software is software for which no money is exchanged, however this is a dangerously incorrect assumption. Free software is that which is rooted in freedom, meaning that the source code is freely available under an appropriate license to be used, modified and redistributed in whatever way one sees fit with little or no restriction. In other words, it is free as in freedom. Cost is irrelevant. Such software is often given the label "FOSS" or "FLOSS" as in Free, Open-Source Software or Free/Libre, Open-Source Software.
Whether one pays money for proprietary software or not, it is never free because restrictions are placed upon how it may be used, modified and distributed and, worse, it often includes security vulnerabilities and intrusive malware used to collect data about the system and the user habits which is then monetized in some nefarious way. Proprietary software is a black box one is not permitted to examine. It can never and should never be trusted, whereas the source code for free software is available for public review so that security and privacy issues, as well as improvements, can be readily addressed by anyone capable of doing so. I don't mean to imply that all free software is secure, respectful of ones privacy, or was written by ethical people, but free software in general is more secure and far more trustworthy than proprietary software. Those that think otherwise might ponder the fact that much of the internet's infrastructure and web services, as well as a plethora of hardware devices such as watches, cameras, routers and the vast majority of phones, are powered by free software, at least to some degree.
So my reason for suggesting another "division" among us is, i think, a very necessary one. Simply put, users of proprietary software compromise not only their own security and privacy, but also the privacy and security of everyone else. For example, when a user of a free operating system, such as a GNU/Linux-based OS, communicates with a Windows user, there can be no assurance whatsoever that such communications won't be transmitted to a 3rd party without the knowledge of either person, even if that communication is encrypted.
Now the reason i put division in quotes is because i am certainly not suggesting that users of free software stop communicating with users of proprietary software as this would obviously be hugely counter-productive. What i'm suggesting, and i'm certainly not taking credit for the being the first to do so, is that users of free software stop supporting users of proprietary software when they have technical problems and, perhaps more importantly, that developers of free software cease making their software compatible with non-free operating systems. In other words, i'm suggesting that enabling users of non-free software hurts us all. Instead of helping such people solve a technical problem, educate them as to the reasons why they shouldn't be using a proprietary operating system or software and then help them find alternatives. Help them create a bootable flash drive with a free OS so they can try it. Help them locate alternatives to proprietary software and support them when they have a problem.
I was wishfully anticipating that a significant portion of Windows users would immediately abandon Microsoft when the god-awful, privacy-hating Windows 10 garbage was forced down their throats, however this never happened on the scale i had hoped for apparently. It seems that most people simply don't care about what software they use or what nefarious activities that software performs behind their backs because they fail to make the connection between software and it's direct effect upon their own lives, much less the lives of everyone else, and so this is why i think a stronger approach is justified.
For further information...
- Philosophy of the GNU Project - GNU Project
- Proprietary Software Is Often Malware - GNU Project
- Malware – It's (way) worse than you think
- How Much Surveillance Can Democracy Withstand? - GNU Project
- A personal journey: From Windows to Linux to Windows to Linux to…
- Linux for Starters: Your Guide to Linux
One thought on “A proposal for all users and developers of free software: Be a meanie! Don't enable users of proprietary software.”
We’ve got enough division within free software to keep us busy. But I like the idea of pulling the plug on building for malicious platforms. ‘You want to use LibreOffice? Fine, then get rid of Mac/Windows first.’ …or learn how to build from source.