Declare your independence from proprietary software (Or how to break the habit of proprietary software)

As we celebrate Independence Day here in the United States, it is a perfect time to ponder on the importance of words such as freedom and liberty. I find the passion and emotion most people feel about their computers (and the software they use) very interesting and confusing. We develop close relationships with our computers. He become accustomed to their idiosyncrasies as we would with any other person we might have in our lives. And once we get comfortable with them, we find it very difficult to let go of the habits we form with them.

So it is quite easy to get into the habit of using proprietary software and not realize how attached we become to that software. Some might feel we are fortunate and privileged when it comes to our computers. However, what some might feel is fortune and comfort, others might seem as control and abuse. Just as some back in 1770, might have seen the taxes enacted by the British as just and acceptable. For many I'm sure their lives were very comfortable and based on the easy way things were. However, thanks to leaders in the American revolution, they had the foresight to see where these habits and customs were leading and decided to revolt against the powers to be.

While proprietary software, Linux, and free software can not be seen equal to what took place in the United States over 200 hundred years ago, within the Information Technology industry some do believe that this trend is revolutionary. Whether you see this change as good or bad, one thing is clear this change has come and the software industry will not be the same once this change runs it's course.

Here at TUX, we know that we are leading this change. We have seen where the information technology industry is headed and we choose a new alternative. We see independence from proprietary software as good for society. We realize this change may cause hardship, and will most definitely cause some to lose their comfortable use of proprietary software, but we believe that it is a price worth paying. We believe that we must break our habits on proprietary software and establish our independence from software vendors that abuse our trust, produce inferior products, and use monopoly positions to control how we use our computers.

Of course you recognize that I have taken an artistic license to compare Linux to the American Revolution, but there are sufficient similarities to warrant the comparison. So I choose to ride this artistic wave of emotion I have built in this article and as Patrick Henry said after the Boston Tea Party on March 23, 1775 "I know not what course others may take (proprietary software); but as for me, give me liberty (free software), or give me death!"

Kevin Shockey - Tue, 2006-07-04 18:39.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Independence from proprietary software...

Yep, as soon as I read the Liberty line above I knew I'd find a USA bashing in the comments section. Almost like you hung hate bait out there.

Anyway, pertaining to the article I agree that it's hard for people to break old habits, but I also think the act of breaking those habits in terms of Windows vs. Other OS has a lot to do with the simple fact that they do not even realize that there is an alternative. I firmly believe that there are tons of people out there who have never had the thought of using anything other than Windows on their pc cross their mind. They have no idea that there is anything else. I'm very interested in computers, but when I recall how I came upon Linux 3 years ago it was because I went looking for it, researched it. I think that there are scores of "casual" pc users who have no idea that Linux and free software even exists (furthermore, they only know of MAC's because their niece or someone has an iPod, and even then they don't understand that MAC's are yet another alternative to accomplishing everything they like to do on a Windows pc).

In summary, I think the first step for people to break old Windows habits is the simple awareness to realize that there is an alternative out there if they've had enough of the blue screen of death.

sjwvuie (not verified) - Thu, 2006-07-20 14:28.

Proprietary is good

Not all proprietary software is bad. For example, I'm posting this using Opera. I use Opera instead of Firefox as I prefer the way it does tabs over Firefox, and it's the most compatible with the World Wide Web Consortium's standards.

And if I want to get full use out of my graphics card I have to use Nvidia's proprietary drivers (I understand why they want to keep stuff private).

Sometimes FOSS is not up to scratch when compared to proprietary products (e.g. GIMP vs Photoshop), so proprietary would be the natural choice because it's better.

Don't choose FOSS for FOSS's sake. Choose what's best for the job in hand.

MAdMaN (not verified) - Tue, 2006-07-18 02:55.

Freedom and Liberty in the USA?

Are you sure?

Quote "As we celebrate Independence Day here in the United States, it is a perfect time to ponder on the importance of words such as freedom and liberty."

When a Hurricane smashes into a city you let your people starve and suffer, Is that liberty

When you take people forcibly from another country, lock them up and treat them like slaves - Fly them to other countries to interrogating them and forcing them to pose for lurid pictures. Is that the freedom you talk of.

I don't think the USA has anything to celebrate.

m3fme.

An - ymous (not verified) - Thu, 2006-07-06 02:47.

Keep comments relevant to

Keep comments relevant to the discussion at hand - FOSS or proprietary SW - and spare us all of your personal political view. This is not a politics blog, and your use of it as such to 'sneak in' your political statement is inappropriate and lame.

An - ymous (not verified) - Fri, 2006-07-28 16:42.

Patriotism, problems....

I loathe patriotism at times, it causes so much division in the world. I'm not talking about any nation or event history in particular, but patriotism blinds people to the flaws of their own country and unites a nation against other nations in killing people and so on. My point? I'm not trying to start an argument or even bag the US, but like the US and their old slaves, the hurricanes and so forth, all that has just been pointed out, EVERY country is hypoctrical in the same way. Try pointing that out to a country's patriotic citizen however.....

An - ymous (not verified) - M - , 2006-07-10 01:44.

Nice attack on the U.S.

Nice, you take something about freedom in software and use it to attack the U.S., could you take your hate somewhere else?

As for the article, I also find the fight for digital freedom to be similar to our fight for independence, however it's more apples to oranges as lives were at stake in the war for independence.

Muddy (not verified) - Sat, 2006-07-08 09:35.

Nice analogy, but ...

... I don't think that open source skeptics will be convinced without more evidence.

Rich Renomer - (not verified) - Wed, 2006-07-05 19:00.

Yeah well..

Show me a up to par alternative to Nvidias proprietary drivers and I'll stop using proprietary software. :-)

Speel (not verified) - Wed, 2006-07-05 16:12.

So why does the file

So why does the file information for the latest Tux magazine say "Acrobat Distiller 6.0.1 for Macintosh" ? Propietary software on a proprietary operating system.

An - ymous (not verified) - Wed, 2006-07-05 15:02.

not so painful

Yes, we do get accustomed to using our tools in certain ways. We just want to get our work done, and not have to be continually re-learning how to accomplish the same tasks. So it takes the ability to take the long view, and to appreciate consequences. Most folks seem to be able to tolerate continual low-level pain, such as continually forking out sizable sums of money, putting their data at risk in closed formats, and never quite knowing if their systems are really safe from malware, especially corproate malware which gets a pass from the big security companies, rather than making a significant change that results in much less pain, and likely even some pleasure and satisfaction.

So how much pain does it take to get people to consider making a change? To me using the horrid windows and being locked in to proprietary products is nuts. That hurts a lot. The state of Linux and the BSDs is superior in the server room, and perfectly good-to-superior for the majority of desktops. The obstacles are migrating data, which hurts a lot, and learning new applications, which depends more on the user's willingness to learn than anything else.

Somewhere in this ramble I have a point...anyway, reaching out to noobs is a very good thing, because computers are complex no matter what platform you're on, so the more we help each other the better.

BTW, please lose " 'loose' their comfortable use..." Perhaps a column on why spellcheckers suck is in order. :)

alrac (not verified) - Wed, 2006-07-05 13:06.

Let's get a little deeper into the heart of the blog

First off, I am not an American, but I do understand the point of the analogy with the American Revolution. Analogy aside, the point of the blog is well taken. Until a year ago, I was a devoted Windows user and took pride in holding paid licences for all the software I use. Until my hard drive fried and took my motherboard with it.

At the time, I could barely afford to replace these components. My computer shop kindly provided a bulk-loaded copy of XP for me on the new drive, however it was not licenced and I soon discovered that I had no access to all the critical updates that the lovely Microsoft people provide, as long as your copy of Windows has been certified as "genuine."

In addition, all of my software had to be reinstalled. Because the hard drive and motherboard were changed, most of the software installations would not accept my existing licence codes. This was especially critical with my MS Office suite, which I need for teaching, work and play on a daily basis. I became frustrated, even though I "owned" a couple of thousand dollars worth of software.

A friend suggested I try a Linux distro. Several distros later, I've settled in comfortably with Ubuntu Dapper and have never looked back. Office work, music, video, Internet and e-mail, sound editing, graphic design, Web site construction and FTPing... it's all there and works superbly. It took a little fiddling, but I've also had to fiddle with Windows programs, so I guess we're even. I have only a single task that cannot yet be done in Linux: burning a label onto a CD with my LightScribe burner, which only works in Windows.

Within one year, I have gone from about 20 years of Windows experience to a new OS and NOTHING cost me a cent. That, in my view, is not just revolutionary; it is a miracle and an inspiring miracle at that. Thank you to all the unknown OSS people who have made this possible for me and many others.

And, Happy Birthday America.

Stephen Wils - (not verified) - Thu, 2006-07-20 12:07.

"You say you want a revolution, well you know...

We all want to change the world" :)

All great revolutions have their 'other' side: the signing of the Magna Carta (it focused on the rights of the nobility), the French Revolution (the Great Terror) the American Revolution (really for wealthy white males) and the Industrial Revolution (heavy scale pollution; the destructive and dehumanising consequence of unrestricted capitalism; the theft of the commons)

Like all analogies, it fits only to an extent. The American Revolution wasn't really about freedom for all (but we all ought to know that), just for some white people (the propertied and the wealthy). Add to that, it could have been settled if the British government hadn't been subject to King George III. What would happen if Microsoft and Apple became open source companies

:)) Okay, too scary!

That said, the general idea is a good one: do you want to be free of the restrictions imposed by proprietary software and the legal mechanisms that support it? You do suffer some restrictions as a consequence (sites that don't like none MS OSs and software that isn't available), but you have to decide which is the greater loss.

I've been a Linux desktop user for less than two years (and what a ride that has been :)) I find the moral and political implications of FOSS fascinating; however, like revolutionary ideals in general, much of it goes over the head of the great mass - it doesn't plug-in to their world-view. Yet, if you can show them something on a practical level, it certainly attracts attention.

As a footnote to the issues of proprietary software, DRMs, lock-outs and lock-ins, I read the other day that in June of this year (2006) Bill Gates admitted to the Wall Street Journal that he had watched pirated movies. He wasn't impressed when he was informed it was stealing, retorting that it was more that the owner wasn't being paid (or words to that effect).

patrick (not verified) - M - , 2006-07-24 04:53.