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Educating Users about Freedom Zero
Wednesday, December 20 2006 @ 10:08 PM EST

I've written that some vendors don't comprehend the GPL. Groklaw member PolR wrote me an interesting email, in which he told me that the problem isn't that vendors don't comprehend it. They do. They just are not enamored. They particularly hate freedom zero, PolR wrote, "the freedom to run the program for any purpose, any way you like," as Richard Stallman has defined it. So some are deliberately trying to skirt around it, egged on by Microsoft and their mouthpieces, and joined by some in the community who don't much care or who care about "success" or money more than they care about end users.

He did some thinking about how to counter that pressure, and he suggests that the answer is educating end users. *They* are the ones that need to comprehend the freedoms that the GPL seeks to give them, because if they do understand it -- whether they are individuals, businesses, or government entities -- they are likely to demand them and they will deliberately avoid Brand X "Linux" substitutes, because they will comprehend what closed, binary blobs will do to them. And vendors, he points out, will never educate them about community ways, because they don't want to go there.

He sent me some ideas I'd like to share with you and ask for your additional refinements and additions, as we try to figure the way forward. How best can one explain to users why and how they benefit from the freedoms the GPL provides? He has a method he uses I thought I'd share with you, and perhaps they will trigger some methods or ideas of your own.

I tried something similar with someone the other day, although she had a Windows laptop, so instead I showed her the license for And her jaw dropped. She had found out that her new laptop with XP didn't have Word. And she didn't have extra money to go out and buy it. So when I showed her how easy it is to get an office suite, she was delighted, and she downloaded it on the spot. But I showed her the license first, because of PolR's email, which I took seriously. She was impressed.

Here's what PolR sent me, followed by Eben Moglen on the four freedoms, for those to whom it may be new or helpful to review:


I read your intro to the OIN CEO Jerry Rosenthal's article. You stated that "Corporate entities are unlikely to comprehend the importance of the GPL to FOSS development". I think they understand very well, at least those on the vendor side of the industry. It is just that they don't like the outcome.

The GPL protects freedoms. RMS and the FSF made no mystery about that. Among the freedoms, there is freedom zero that implies one does not have to pay royalties or ask permission to run software. Vendors hate that. They want to give the customers a reason to keep coming to them. They are busy finding ways to raise switching costs, so their customers can't go to the competition unless highly motivated to pay these costs. But they can't do that with free software. The user can obtain it from whoever they want when they want without royalties or permissions. In order to retain customers, the vendor must do the same thing as the competition but better and cheaper. This is a low margin cut-throat business. This is the situation every MBA is trained to avoid as much as he can. This is why there is so much energy spent circumventing the GPL.

The problem for the vendor is the GPL is too customer-friendly to their taste. But the customers are not fully aware of that yet. They have not grasped the consequences of the GPL yet. I think it is no longer productive to explain the GPL to vendors. They have been around long enough and GPL software had enough influence on the market to make sure every vendor knows eveything they need to know. If they go against the GPL, it is because they think they can get away with it because the customers don't demand their freedom yet. The move forward, then, is to educate customers now.

The greatest enemy is disbelief. When I explain freedom to my colleagues, they just can't bring themselves to think this is a viable approach. Freedom goes against a deeply ingrained instinct of customers that says they are not in the business of developing software. They prefer to purchase already made packages whenever they can. The reason is they want to conserve their time and resources for running the main business.

The task of developing and maintaining software is viewed as a distraction. And they think it is easier and less demanding to manage a contractual relationship, sometimes even if purchasing software is more expensive than developing in-house. Given this bias, they view the GPL freedoms, especially freedom zero, as an utopia. Freedom comes with responsibilities and the customers see this as a burden. You can't count on vendors to go tell the customers otherwise. You can't count on vendors to tell the customers how to do things the community way. They are too afraid customers will exercise their freedom.

I know a piece of software that is useful in reducing the degree of disbelief. I nicknamed it Visual Freedom Zero because it gives a WYSIWYG interface to freedom zero. You can see a screenshot here.

If you use Ubuntu, you will recognise it as the utility to add and remove applications. When someone thinks of freedom zero as an Utopia, I just show him this screenshot and explain what it is for. I stress that with Ubuntu Linux you dont need to go the computer store or call a salesman to obtain an application the way you need to do with Windows or a Mac. With freedom zero, you can use software without paying royalties or asking for permission. You just fire up Visual Freedom Zero and you can search for the software you want and install it. The other freedoms exist to allow the programmers to populate Visual Freedom Zero with more and better applications. Every year, the application set grows in quantity and quality.

When people see and touch freedom like this, they usually are impressed. At least they realize that this is for real, not some daydream.

This brings another of my pet theories about the GPL -- the concept of an ecosystem.

RMS once said in an interview something to the effect that one of the goals of the GPL was to promote the development of a universe or body of free software. This is a very important statement. Microsoft has invested a lot in the creation of the ecosystems of partners and third parties that rely on the Microsoft platforms. Customers are locked in Microsoft products partly because they depend on this ecosystem; and conversely, vendors are locked in partly because this is where the customers are. The emergence of a significant parallel ecosystem not locked in to Microsoft technologies is a Microsoft nightmare.

But the free software ecosystem is not defined by a platform. It is defined by the freedoms as protected by the GPL. The key to build such ecosystems was said best by Steve Ballmer: "Developers! Developers! Developers! Developers! ..." Free software can build an alternative ecosystem because the developers don't need revenue to develop. They just code and populate Visual Freedom Zero with more and better software.

"Freedom zero, the freedom to use software, is infringed if you are required to pay fees or make promises in order to use software, anywhere, anytime. FSF will never publish a license that violates freedom zero. Similarly, freedom two, the freedom to modify a program, and freedom three, the freedom to share, are violated if private modification is prohibited or sharing is required rather than permitted. You can always modify free software for your own use, and decide whether to share it with other people. If you share with others, the GPL says now and always will say that you have to give them the same freedoms you were given by others who contributed to the code you are using, modifying and redistributing." -- Eben Moglen, "Freedom Now".


Educating Users about Freedom Zero | 335 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Off Topic here
Authored by: webster on Wednesday, December 20 2006 @ 10:17 PM EST
if you must.


[ Reply to This | # ]

Educating Users about Freedom Zero
Authored by: pmichaud on Wednesday, December 20 2006 @ 10:23 PM EST
This is an outstanding article -- thanks for sharing it with us.

I think it's also important that we not tar all vendors with the same brush.
I'm certain that PoIR isn't intending this, but it may be very easy to read the
article and conclude a "vendors versus users" dichtomoy and that's not
at all the outcome we want.

There are vendors that do like the GPL, and build on it constructively, and we
need those vendors as part of the ecosystem as much as we do developers and


[ Reply to This | # ]

Corrections Here
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 20 2006 @ 10:41 PM EST
should any be needed

--Bill P, not a lawyer. Question the answers, especially if I give some.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Do unto others
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 20 2006 @ 10:49 PM EST
as YOU would HAVE THEM do unto YOU

i.e. You don't want your freedoms restricted, so don't restrict the freedoms of
or .. You want more freedom, so give more freedom to others

I think THAT says it very well .. and it easily pre-dates all this software
stuff :-)

[ Reply to This | # ]

I must still be missing something
Authored by: roadfrisbee on Wednesday, December 20 2006 @ 11:10 PM EST
In the case of say the Nvidia drivers, I can't see where anyone's freedoms are
being infringed upon by allowing them to access kernel APIs without having to
disclose their trade secrets regarding their hardware. There are nice FOSS
drivers out there which everyone is free to use, but the proprietary drivers are
somewhat better as one would reasonably expect given the circumstances. There
is a lot of money spent in chip design, so I can understand their wanting to
keep their stuff secret from other hardware manufacturers to protect their
investment. I am happy that they provide Linux drivers free of charge, and just
don't see the harm in it. The FOSS drivers are included in the various
distributions, so anyone who wants them has them. The proprietary drivers you
have to go out, read the EULA, then download & install them yourself. The
user has to intentionally do this, there isn't any co-mingling of the
proprietary drivers with any Open Source or FOSS software that I'm aware of.
However, there seems to be quite a few who feel letting the manufacturers have
access to the kernel APIs and making closed source drivers available (for free)
is somehow bad. As an end user, I just see this as another choice for me. As a
programmer who has written and distributed freeware, I can't see where my rights
as a programmer would be violated unless for some reason I had expressly
forbidden it. I see where that will be the case under GPLv3, but I just don't
see it in the current version. What am I overlooking??

[ Reply to This | # ]

Educating Users about Freedom Zero
Authored by: tknarr on Wednesday, December 20 2006 @ 11:16 PM EST

One thing I do to educate business users about Freedom Zero is to put it in stark financial terms. What happens when the vendor goes out of business? Or when there's a bug in the software that cripples your operations and the vendor doesn't consider a problem that only affects one or two users to be worth the cost of fixing? Or when the vendor simply decides they need the cash flow from upgrades and plain won't renew license keys for the version of software you're using?

Freedom Zero gives you choices. Yes, maintaining the software yourself or hiring a contractor to do it costs money, and it may not make financial sense for a business to do it. But you have the choice. You can have your accountant crunch the numbers and pick the path that's the least costly. And if that path is upgrading to a newer version, you get to do it on your own timeline. The software won't stop working on a specific date, so while you don't want to delay you also don't have to rush the upgrade if it makes more business sense to take a month or two longer. Freedom Zero lets the business drive the process based on it's own business needs and priorities.

Without Freedom Zero, all that goes away. It doesn't matter what path would be least costly for the business, because there's only one path: pay the vendor for an upgrade. Even if it'd cost a tenth as much to hire a contractor and support the software in-house, you can't choose that. Even if the upgrade path is the absolute worst one for your business, it's the only one available to you. And it has to be done on the vendor's time-line. When their keys expire, the software drops dead and your data becomes inaccessible. The vendor controls your schedule and drives the process based on their business needs and priorities, no matter how well those match or badly they conflict with yours.

So which makes more sense for the business? To be able to choose based on which path better fits your own business needs? Or to have no choice but the path that best fits the software vendor's business needs?

[ Reply to This | # ]

GPL is actually business friendly
Authored by: kawabago on Wednesday, December 20 2006 @ 11:16 PM EST
The GPL is friendly to business because it prevents others from stealing or
copying your code and selling it. You can still sell your code though.
TrollTech sold the gui for OS X to Apple but the same code is also available
under GPL. As PJ pointed out, the GPL is actually a distribution channel, what
business can't benefit from a free worldwide distribution channel?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Educating Users about Freedom Zero
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 20 2006 @ 11:17 PM EST
What part of baby mulching do people not understand?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Moneyworld - The Corrupt Ecosystem
Authored by: SpaceLifeForm on Wednesday, December 20 2006 @ 11:23 PM EST
Define: ecosystem

You'll note that there are quite a few links returned. Use your software tools, see if you can find the words 'money' or 'economic' within the page.

Even PolR, whom I have utmost respect for, used the word 'ecosystem' seven times, and I see that another has used the word.

This is horrible misuse of the word 'ecosystem'.

Don't be confused in Moneyworld.

It's not a real ecosystem.


You are being MICROattacked, from various angles, in a SOFT manner.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Educating Users
Authored by: rp$eeley on Wednesday, December 20 2006 @ 11:25 PM EST
I think many people have tried to understand and have hit an immediate brick
wall via their own sense of supply and demand. They have a problem understanding
how someone can make a living at giving away their programming efforts. That
leads quite naturally to the idea that free programs are by necessity a product
of hobbyists and therefore of inferior quality. Most people have mental pictures
of giant office mazes filled with busy (and well paid) programmers turning out
millions and millions of lines of code leading to complicated and useful
applications. It's all just very counter intuitive and needs a first class
public education effort that will bring every level of user to a realization
that their complicated software production model is nowhere near as accurate as
they think it is. I believe we all recognise what an uphill battle this is, but
we need the best of the best to step up and address this problem.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Who is a "User?"
Authored by: hbo on Wednesday, December 20 2006 @ 11:30 PM EST
I occasionally beat a certain drum here on Groklaw. I can't see that it has made any particular imprint, but that doesn't keep me from thinking that it matters.

The beat goes something like this:

Business ain't one thing
As many kinds as people
They are users too
Some businesses grok the GPL and hate it. Some businesses grok it and love it. Lots of businesses still don't understand it. And finally, not all businesses are trying for proprietary lock-in. Many are trying to compete by offering better service and such.


"Even if you are on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there" - Will Rogers

[ Reply to This | # ]

You're making me feel guilty...
Authored by: josmith42 on Wednesday, December 20 2006 @ 11:31 PM EST

...because I am a developer and I haven't written any open source code yet!

Alright, time to get on sourceforge and find a project I'd like to help out with...

This comment was typed using the Dvorak keyboard layout. :-)

[ Reply to This | # ]

Opportunities, Not Obligations
Authored by: Simon G Best on Wednesday, December 20 2006 @ 11:51 PM EST

I think an important thing to bear in mind, when it comes to enlightening fellow users about the benefits of FOSS, is that many people don't like to be told what they should or shouldn't do. Emphasizing opportunities, rather than (perceived) obligations, is much more likely to get people interested. Freedom and opportunities are attractive, while duty and obligations are often seen as chores and burdens. Also, telling someone what they ought or ought not to do can easily offend them, and seem moralistic and arrogant.

For example:-

"You should use Free and Open Source Software instead. It's much better than what you're currently using."

"Excuse me, but who are you to tell me what I should and shouldn't do? I'll make my own decisions, thank you very much."

would be much better as:-

"Would you like to try Free and Open Source Software instead?"


"Well, I just thought you might find the freedom refreshing."


"Yeah. Freedom to do whatever you like with the software, rather than only being able to do what the software vendor permits you to do." And so the FOSSer continues...

Tell someone what they should or shouldn't do, how they ought or ought not to behave, and they may well get defensive, close up, and refuse to listen. But acknowledge and respect their freedom, and let them know of the opportunities, and they're much more likely to listen, be receptive, and open to FOSS. Trying to push FOSS on people just puts them off it, while offering it to them and letting them decide respects the very freedom we're banging on about! :-D

In other words: it's good to actually practice what we preach about freedom :-)


[ Reply to This | # ]

Freedom Zero
Authored by: W^L+ on Thursday, December 21 2006 @ 12:07 AM EST

An article from Mark Pilgrim's site that I think is really appropriate here:
Freedom Zero
Even if you have good software, you will eventually need to make use of Freedom Zero.

I'm not a lawyer or expert of any kind. If you rely on anything I say, you're asking for trouble.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Freedom Zero - but...
Authored by: bradley13 on Thursday, December 21 2006 @ 02:32 AM EST
Erf... Yes, but let us add a small dose of reality. This article, and much of
the response to it implies that there is no place for proprietary software. It's
evil, don't ya know.

Fact is, there is a place for both. I've done a bit of GPL - for certain things
its fine. But there is indeed the issue of "making a living", and in
certain markets proprietary software is the way to go. And there is no need, as
one commenter put it, to "feel guilty" about it either.

As an example, take a client who needs a custom program written. No program
exists that does what they need. Most likely this is a niche market, with just a
few companies that would be interested in such a product. They pay to have the
program written - depending on complexity, this costs 6 or 7 digits.

Now comes the question: should this program be released to the public under the
GPL or BSD licenses? Whatever for? The only possible result would be one of
their competitors using the program without paying the associated development
costs. Even if the few competitors pay for instruction or consulting, this will
only amount to a tiny fraction of the development costs.

As far as I can tell, the only way to "make a living" doing GPL
software is to work in large markets, i.e., with non-specialized products. Your
income comes from consulting, which is purchased by a minority of customers, so
you need a lot of customers out there.

Tell me if I'm all wet here, but that's how I see it...

[ Reply to This | # ]

Educating Users
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, December 21 2006 @ 03:37 AM EST

Here we go again.

So the GPL is the only business friendly license? Hardly.

The GPL works great for Linux and some other products. However, many businesses that write software won't use it because it is like writing a check to their competitors. Oracle would be stupid to GPL its database product. They have several open source competitors but businesses are willing to buy it because it has proven itself in the market, even though Oracle isn't known to have the best support.

And the GPL isn't the only open source license. I write software for a living. Software licensed under the GPL is practically the only software we cannot incorporate. Frankly, it doesn't matter. There is so much software available under the Apache, BSD, or LGPL licenses that none of the GPL'd stuff matters, at least when developing new software.

In the Java world probably the most popular IDE is Eclipse, which is released under its own open source license. However, IntelliJ has die-hard fans who are willing to spend several hundred dollars for it even though it isn't open source and Eclipse is free.

So what is the bottom line? There are many open source licenses and they each have their place. So does proprietary software. Vendors have to choose which model best fits their business model and which one will create a sustainable business.

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • Educating Users is hard - Authored by: MadTom1999 on Thursday, December 21 2006 @ 04:05 AM EST
  • Huh? - Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, December 21 2006 @ 04:07 AM EST
  • BSD - Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, December 21 2006 @ 04:09 AM EST
Educating Users about Freedom Zero
Authored by: AlanMilnes on Thursday, December 21 2006 @ 04:20 AM EST
The article is interesting but doesn't address the fact that major companies
(like Banks) need to ensure the support for the products is available 24 x 7
which means support contracts from major vendors. Companies like IBM (my
employer, although these views are my own) understand this and are comfortable
selling support services for GPL products. Support for major distributions like
RHEL or SUSE is easy but if you want to deploy a more obscure program globally
that can be a challenge (ever tried to buy a global support contract for
OpenOffice?). This is, IMO, the biggest challenge to wider acceptance of GPL

[ Reply to This | # ]

Ubuntu and Freedom Zero
Authored by: Bystander on Thursday, December 21 2006 @ 04:35 AM EST
"Freedom Zero is the freedom to run the program for any purpose, any way you like."

According to this account, written by Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, Ubuntu is going with the desires of a majority of its users and will install proprietary binary drivers by default for certain types of hardware in its next release.

It's not that Ubuntu's developers like proprietary drivers. The developers felt that given that, "A large proportion of people using Ubuntu -- including 70%-80% of people with new computers -- need a non-Free driver for reasonable performance from their graphics card, wireless card, or modem, because there is no Free driver available, they had little choice in the matter.

The developers are well aware of the problems with using these drivers. For example, there are the simple technical problems that support for the drivers is completely dependent on the hardware vendor. And, then, when the vendor does make a bug fix, that "improvement" will require careful testing, since the developers won't know what was changed in the update. Of course, on top of that, there are the philosophical objections to using binary drivers in Linux.

Many public comments about this decision object to Ubuntu's decision. One writer said, "We should not give up our freedom for a short term advantage."

A public poll, on the Ubuntu forums, however, reveals far less outrage and far more desktop pragmatism. As of the evening of Nov. 17, on the question, "Should binary NVidia/ATI drivers be automatically installed & activated in Ubuntu?," the answers were:

  • 32.62 percent -- "Yes, while informing the user of the relevant issues, etc."
  • 54.63 percent -- "Users should be given a choice about this during installation"
  • and only 12.75 percent voted for "No, such drivers can stay in a non-free repo, just like now"

Ubuntu is apparently going to allow its users to fully exercise their Freedom Zero rights, while carrying on an ongoing educational effort. To me, that sounds like a good practical and pragmatic approach.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Educating PJ about Freedom Zero
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, December 21 2006 @ 04:52 AM EST
Freedom zero doesn't mean you get the software for free. I don't just mean in
the sense that you can sell GPL software, but that it has almost nothing to do
with why you get all that free software with Ubuntu.

Some commercial software still gives you freedom zero. I think back when the
freedoms were first written it was unusual to find freedom zero restricted. It
is the most basic freedom, the one hardest to justify prohibiting. Freedom zero
is not restricted by copyright but by licenses, technical measures and the

What does violate freedom zero? When you have to agree to a license that
forbids publishing benchmarks, that is a violation. Prohibiting decompilation
violates freedom zero. If your software expires, that violates freedom zero.
DRM violates freedom zero. Forcing someone to pay for each copy of the software
before it is run is not a violation of freedom zero, but it is of some of the
other freedoms.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Educating Users about Freedom Zero
Authored by: Sabaki on Thursday, December 21 2006 @ 05:09 AM EST
There are so many tremendous advantages on so many levels to free software vs.
proprietary software that sometimes I just don't understand really how others
can fail to see it, unless they simply and deliberately choose to be deaf, dumb,
blind, and clueless.

But I think you have to appeal to and educate the individual one by one. Not a
corporation or a business or group or some other 'mass'.

I know 'it is a PR world', but I'm pretty fed up with the FUD and gross
commerciality of marketing 'psychology' (which is about all psychology is used
for - to sell soap... and drugs).

Emphasize freedom. Everybody wants freedom. Except the slave-masters, and even
they do too, as they are the most enslaved of all.


[ Reply to This | # ]

the developers don't need revenue to develop
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, December 21 2006 @ 06:10 AM EST
I work as a developer, and I do need money to develop. That's how I support my
family, contribute to charities, and pay taxes. Already careers in this field
are suffering as jobs are outsourced to lesser developed countries. If we now
have to compete against people who don't need money to survive for these jobs,
who will go into the field? I used to encourage my kids to study software
engineering. Now I don't because I don't think the jobs will be there to
support them in the future.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Advocating the Gospel of Open Source
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, December 21 2006 @ 06:22 AM EST
This is a great article, PJ.

There have been countless times that I have had to explain
the concept of freedom (legally) and free (legally) while
advocating various OSS solutions. I've had husbands,
wives, and coworkers come back with their spouces or
fellow-workers because they weren't sure quite how to
explain it to them to relinquish their fears of doing
something illegal (which perhaps shows that MSs FUD is at
least working to some degree or perhaps it's like someone
being in jail so long that they're just not sure about
freedom anymore... Institutionalized).

There have been quite a few times I would literally have
to show them licenses and just sit there for hours talking
about how the OS communities have grown over the last few
decades just to give them an idea of how big this has
become and to calm their fears.

But the cool thing (in every experience) is that when they
finally get it and understand what's going on, it's like
they get hungry for more. They want to help in some way
because they see and understand the potential that these
communities have in bettering the whole of the world's
population. Then they become advocates themselves. They
ask how to best donate, so I show them links of how
donations are asked for. It's like spreading the Gospel
of Open Source. Sharing the G'nUs (My wife's Slang for
"Good News").


"The truth shall set you free." -- The J-Dude

[ Reply to This | # ]

Vendors v "Drug dealers"
Authored by: cricketjeff on Thursday, December 21 2006 @ 06:23 AM EST
Vendors sell things. Therefore vendors like freedom zero, if freedom zero isn't
part of the deal when you "buy" something you didn't buy it you rented
it. Drug dealers don't actually sell anything they want people to pay them
regular amounts of money in order to continue with their lives, don't pay for
today's fix, don't function tomorrow.
M$ and its cohorts are drug barons, they recruit little guys to do the dirty
work and sit back and rake in the big profits. In the OSS world there are no
barons, because all the profits exist at the little guy end. What you sell is
support, people buy that as long as they need it, or they can choose not to buy
it and pay someone to fix the problem if they ever get one. There is still a big
job for vendors, but not much of one for the big software firms. What we need to
do is to encourage the vendors to move away from the drug dealers back to real

[ Reply to This | # ]

"There is no such thing as a free lunch"
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, December 21 2006 @ 06:52 AM EST
That concept is brought home to thousands of people every day as they are
barraged with ads for "free" offers that turn out not to be free. The
"free" well is continuously and forever poisoned by thousands of
advertisers and now you come along and want to convince people that this water
is actually safe to drink. Lots of luck!

The next obvious question is "What's the catch?" If you say there
isn't any, you're lying. There is no recognizable brand name with a history you
can trust. There is no toll-free support number or email address where you can
get a courteous response to questions. You have to hunt for support among
people who are likely as not to answer your questions with "RTFM!"

If you are a corporate entity, there is no one with deep pockets for your law
firm to negotiate with. If you are an individual, you are told to "Use the
internet." Well friend, people are sick and tired of buying commercial
software that doesn't work until you use the internet to patch it, so free
software offers no advantage there.

Lots of people trust Consumer Reports to tell them what product is best, but I
don't see Consumer Reports ever evaluting free software because it is simply too
volatile a product to specify which version to use.

As for "fix it yourself" or "hire a programmmer to fix it",
that doesn't fly for lots of people who aren't interested in improving someone
else's work - they want a finished product that works out of the box and are
willing to pay for a product that does that.

GNU/Linux IS the great unfinished software project and as long it is constantly
evolving it will remain an unattractive choice for many people. Microsoft
understands that and solves the problem by periodically hanging a name like
Windows 98 or Windows 98SE on their current state of the art. Novell and Red
Hat caught on and that's why you have things like SLED 10 that people are
willing to invest in. For GNU/Linux there is no comparable "stake in the
ground" other than the various distros, which again, some people value
enough to pay for. But the very fact that the distros exist with paid support
shows that many people are just not interested in "do it yourself"

The best chance of interesting people in free software is not by comparing
licenses. Most Windows users have never read the MS EULA and couldn't
understand it if they did. They think they "own" their copy of Windows
and can't understand why they're not free to load it on every computer they
have. The real advantage of FOSS is that they can do that, but you're much more
likely to get their attention by demonstrating a Knoppix or Ubuntu Live CD first
and then explaining how the licenses differ.

Of course that will only work if the underwhelming FOSS nv driver happens to
work with the user's Nvidia graphics card. In a great many cases it won't, and
thus the need for the dreaded binary blobs, without which GNU/Linux isn't going
anywhere until someone does the work needed to make the nv driver useable. And,
of course, the same situation applies to wireless internet connections where
FOSS drivers depend on Windows binary blobs to make them work.

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Freedom Zero simplified
Authored by: cricketjeff on Thursday, December 21 2006 @ 06:56 AM EST
Freedom Zero car: you buy it, it breaks and you take it to the garage who fix
Non Free car: you get it on a lease, which costs much more than buying the
freedom zero car, when it breaks you take it to the main dealer who charges you
much more than a garage and usually explains that that is a "feature"
not a fault and when you "buy" your new car next year it won't be a
problem so live with it until then. You can't opt to use another garage ever
because there are no owners manuals and anyway the engine bay is welded shut. At
any point the lease owner can update your car to stop it using any roads the
owner doesn't like.

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Educating Users about Freedom Zero
Authored by: gbl on Thursday, December 21 2006 @ 07:13 AM EST
You sometimes hear something like the statement, "Why should I care about open source, I'm not a programmer and am never going to look at the code. I drive a car but I haven't a clue what goes on under the hood."

This is a classic misunderstanding and inability to put oneself in other peoples shoes. One person may never need to have access to source code, but others do and you might just need their services one day.

As for cars, one really wants the maintainence guy to know how to look after the car so s/he must have access to the "source". But many car makers are making it more and more difficult for the independent engineer to gain access to the information required to compete against the "approved" dealerships. The technology is different but the problem is the same. The restriction of essential information is intended to create a monopoly, raise prices and increase profits.

The state motto for New Hampshire is Live Free or Die. Perhaps it should also appear on every web page about FOSS?

If you love some code, set it free.

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Educating Users about Freedom Zero
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, December 21 2006 @ 10:35 AM EST
Regarding people being disinterested in source code availability because they aren't developers and merely want to download and use software: Even though individuals may not be developers, having the source code available is critically important to a truly healthy software ecosystem, as it enables others to make repairs and improvements to the software, even if the individual users are not devleopers. Maybe the following examples will drive the point home.
  • Few people are mechanics, yet few people would be happy if they could only take their car to the dealer to get repairs and maintenance
  • Few people are construction workers, yet few people would be happy if they could only hire the original store (e.g. Lowe's, Home Depot, etc.) to construct, repair, and improve their homes.
  • Few people are plumbers, yet few people would be happy if only the original plumber who installed your plumbing could fix your drains or add a sink.
  • Few people are appliance repairpersons, yet few people would be happy if only the manufacturer could repair your washer, dryer, fridge, etc. (this is more true than hypothetical: it's apparently difficult to get a third-party repairperson to fix a Kenmore appliance (I forget what the reason is, but this was reported to me when I sought to repair my 3-year-old Kenmore dryer), and the orignal vendor is extremely expensive!)

It's very probable that others can find even more and even better examples, but this will get your mind started. Also note that in many of these cases, the laws of physics are much more sane for the end-user than the prevailing thoughts about "intellectual property" (i.e. that there's more to copyright than merely "stealing" versus "not stealing"), because (for example) it's much, much harder to create lumber that can't be used with anyone else's materials than it is to create secret hooks, encryption, and other secret things to give your own software an edge over competitors by locking your users in....

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Educating Users about Freedom Zero
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, December 21 2006 @ 02:26 PM EST
One reason the general public doesn't understand free software is that
corporations in a partnership with conservative ideologists and politicians have
persuaded people that if something is of value, especially economic value, then
you have to pay for it.

But now think of scientific knowledg, like Newton's laws of physics. Every day
countless thousands of engineers use Newton's laws to design all sorts of
products, like bridges and automobiles. Or think of the ability to read. It is
immensely valuable, but we all learn that ability for free in public schools.

Perhaps a good way to sell free software is to start out by talking to people
about verious free goods, and then ask why software can't fall in that same
class, and then tell them that there is an immense, ever-expanding body of often
high-quality software that does.

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Freedom Zero rarely exists
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, December 21 2006 @ 03:37 PM EST
"The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0)."

Third parties, usually governments, employers, ISPs, or other institutions or
authorities, keep "Freedom Zero" from becoming a reality. They won't
let you use a given piece of software to do something that you aren't allowed to
do anyways, like break the law.

If I use GNU Linux and other tools to launch a DOS attack, I think the police
will have something to say about that.

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Educating Users about Freedom Zero
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, December 21 2006 @ 05:35 PM EST
It would be great for those of us who DO distribute GPL code to have some
prepared high quality vetted consumer oriented marketing material we can either
post on our websites or at least link to from our websites to educate our
customers and site visitors.

End users are not interested in features unless there is a perceived benefit
Microsoft and the entertainment industry have done a marvelous job of educating
the consumers of the downside of using their software. Now is time to inform the
consumers that not only do they have a choice - but that choice gives back to
them control of their computers and the freedom to use their computers and
software anyway they want to.

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Freedom worthless without punishment of violations
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, December 22 2006 @ 02:55 PM EST
There are a lot of laws warranting freedom and other human
rights. But in the practicel live, they are violated

This is not a question of 'inteligence' or go around the
laws (as atributed erroneously to certain groups or people
which have history in these practics), but 'merely' of
desrespect of these laws together with a big portion of
shamelessness to enslave others. One see in the
history, that these people which were in front of all
kinds of enslaving others, often (f. ex., among the
european people) where these with the smallest ability to
produce something themselves.

So, for example, persons which try to patent the wheel, or
sell rain water (or, open software) -- not only to sell
it, but to try to force everybody to have to buy it from

One see, the question is not connected directly to
software, or to software patents. These practics could be
done with anything what's gratuitly, with goods, services,
freedom rights. The actors negate, principally, the right
of to prestate gratuitly services or goods, and on the
other side, to accept such given by others; they
understand they have a 'natural right' to bill something
to the whole population to excerce certain rights, or get
certain (inclusive, basical) goods, services.

[W.r.t. OP's, it seems to become more and more irrelevant,
if M$ install an OP what's useful, what only disturbes
(f.ex. by access controls), what nor belongs to them; they
understand a natural right to get a fee for each / every
computer which runs on the world. There are contracts
that the computer producers have to pay M$ even when they
produce / deliver / sell computers without Windows ...]

Agsinst these desrespects against the whole humanity, is
no other mean, than to punish these actors. A mere
defensive strategy, as token by the FSF, is unsufficient.
Because when its without risk, they will try it again and
again, and then its only a question of the probability
after what number of attempts they will succeed.

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Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, December 22 2006 @ 06:57 PM EST
Best article ever on this site. Best Linux article of 2006. =)

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