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Re: [Fsfe-uk] Mac OS X refund

From: Chris Croughton
Subject: Re: [Fsfe-uk] Mac OS X refund
Date: Thu, 24 Jan 2008 20:08:27 +0000
User-agent: Mutt/1.5.11

On Thu, Jan 24, 2008 at 02:28:37PM +0000, Noah Slater wrote:

> On Thu, Jan 24, 2008 at 01:51:36PM +0000, Chris Croughton wrote:
> > > I hardly think that his situation is similar to the "zomg, i just
> > > totally have to get that new mac air so i can sit in starbucks
> > > drinking my extra-mocha-choca-decaf and prepare notes on free software
> > > using keynote" situation.
> > 
> > Strawman and hyperbole, you are spoiling your own case using such
> > tactics.
> Oh, I know. I was being intentionally hyperbolic to keep it light. ;)

Ah, I think you went out the other side of the hyperbola *g*.

> > Let me ask the "everything must be free software" fanatics (I don't know
> > whether you count yourself as one, but feel free to answer): Do you use
> > any of the following?
> I'm not sure I identify with that however my attitude is one of using
> free software where it is avaialable and using non-free software where
> there is no other option.

I thought you were one of the more moderate people, and reading your
latest post about That Media Format confirms it.  I sometimes lose track
of who's sitting where.

> A good example of this is my recent switch from non-free Gmail to free
> mutt but my continued use of Google for seach given no free
> alternative.

I've been using mutt for years and actually like it (I also like vim), I
also have a gmail account which I got recently because there are times
when I have only web access and need an emergency mail system (and don't
trust Yahoo or the MS-operated ones).

> But I fear this example may open a new flameware over software as a
> service, which I would rather not get into right now, my point is the
> same, as I am about to explain.

I don't see gmail as "software as a service", it seems no different to
me from any ISP or web host webmail.  But that may be because that's all
I use it as.

> >     A computer using proprietary hardware (like a CPU?)
> Isn't all hardware proprietary in a way?
> I'm not a hardware geek, but I use a PowerPC, so you tell me.

Non-open.  I'm looking forward to when the ARM patents expire so we can
have really free hardware.

> >     A car with a proprietary processor doing engine management?
> No, don't drive.

And the other person who replied has a Morris Minor on which the most
complex electronics is probably the radio (and that's probably steam!)
*g*.  Some days I can't win.

> >     A TV set using proprietary software?
> Again, I consider this to be firmware.

I don't distinguish them, because as far as most people using Windows
are concerned the OS might as well be firmware (whatever the OS is, they
don't have the knowledge, ability or interest to replace it).

> >     An airline whose planes use proprietary software?
> Again, it may as well be firmware to me.
> >     Roads with traffic and pedestrian lights run by proprietary
> >     software?
> Again firmware.
> But there is a clear distinction between hardware, firmware and user
> installable software as RMS makes clear in a number of his
> essays. RMS's general argument is that non-free firmware (such as the
> software that runs your microwave) doesn't matter because as you can't
> easily change it, and hence it may as well be hardwired (literally)
> into the hardware.

How about on a mobile phone?  Why is there any interest in FS circles
about people making Linux[1]-based phones if the 'firmware' doesn't
matter?  The user can't change it, they can't easily do anything using
it (applications are usually Java, and are often locked, because you
really don't want to see the mess which could be made of the network if
some oik messed up the protocols).

[1] Not, from what I've seen, GNU+Linux, they seem to be using the
kernel and very little else from GNU, and several of them putting a
proprietary or other licenced layer on top.

> I think that bringing in free hardware/firmware arguments (such as
> free BIOS) would cloud the current debate.
> > If the answer is yes to any of these, please stop or I won't take you
> > seriously when you say that free software developers and advocates must
> > only use free software.
> But I am talking about software, not hardware or firmware or software
> that is in some remote system which I have control over.
> I think it is perfectly reasonable to limit the argument to user
> installable software and in fact RMS does exactly this.

As far as I'm concerned people who use a car or mobile phone or other
appliance and don't care what's in it are just as 'guilty' of using
non-free software as those who use whatever OS and applications suit
their needs.  If they really cared they could do without the phone (or
get one with free software), buy a Moggie Minor instead of a recent car,
use a free BIOS, etc.

Note that I put 'guilty' in quotes, because I don't think that they are
actually guilty of anything except being "holier than thou" and
criticising others of something they do themselves to a lesser extent.
It's only a matter of degree, and I dislike their stance.  It's fine by
me if they use non-free tools to help write free software, just let
other people do the same with what we find helps productivity (and I can
tell you that starving in the street does not help my productivity at

> > The same as I don't take seriously mediaeval re-enactors who insist
> > that all of their clothing must be 'authentic' but use a
> > machine-made needle to sew it.
> Just to throw a spanner in the works, I own a PS3 and enjoy playing
> lots of fun, action packed non-free games. ;)

See, you're a heretic like me!

> However, I think this is different still. I don't like that the games
> are non-free, but at the moment there is no alternative.

Exactly!  The vast majority of people I know with computers, including
ones who are GNU+Linux geeks and wouldn't dream of running real software
on non-free platforms, use them at least in part to play games, and
those games don't run on non-proprietary systems.  They use the PSx, Wii
-- and Windows.  Because otherwise they don't get what they want to do
(or their kids don't).  The vast majority of people don't give a fig
about what platform their games or other applications run on, because as
far as they are concerned the computer most of the time is just an

> If you suggest that I play TuxRacer or similar I heartly recommend you
> try playing a PS3 game before suggesting that the two could be
> considered interchangable. ;)

I'm not into games, except simulators (I can get very addicted to a good
flight simulator, and have spent many hours on Lincity, and like a lot
of people with addictions I'll tend to avoid them to prevent getting
hooked), but yes I agree with you, free games have a long way to go to
get close to the proprietary ones.  And when they get there the non-free
ones will have had that much more time to get further ahead, it's Zeno's
Paradox.  Particularly with things like the Wii, with which I was most
impressed (the controller is so intuitive I forgot it was there), where
a lot of the effort is in the hardware.

Chris C

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