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Re: [Fsuk-manchester] Ubuntu !free

From: Noah Slater
Subject: Re: [Fsuk-manchester] Ubuntu !free
Date: Thu, 22 May 2008 12:36:39 +0100
User-agent: Mutt/1.5.17+20080114 (2008-01-14)

On Wed, May 21, 2008 at 10:49:20PM +0100, Dave Crossland wrote:
> > Talking about "freedoms" without clarification gives rise to...
> > ... the perception of moral absolutism! Hehe, sorry to bang on about this.
> [...]
> Just as there are religions that are not morally absolute, one can be
> morally absolute without being religious.

You're missing the point and so is MJ Ray.

I wasn't arguing that all religions are morally absolutest, though an awful lot,
like Christianity and Islam, are. I was drawing parallels between an attitude of
moral absolutism prevalent in the Free Software world and similar attitudes
found in popular world religions. This was in a direct reply to you apparent
confusion at religiously charged adjectives being used in conversation with you.

> (I try to prepend "software" to the word freedom in these discussions
> consisently, apologies if that was unclear.)

Again, even talking about Software Freedom is vague and too fluffy.

What about Bob who thinks that Software Freedom is about the freedom to
distribute "closed source" software, or Alice who thinks that Software Freedom
is ability to build software without fear of software patents.

The four freedoms as defined in the GNU Manifesto are only one possible set of
freedoms and it's important to keep this perspective.

It wouldn't normally be an issue and I wouldn't normally mention it but the way
you throw around phrases such as "valuing freedom" carry implicitly that there
is one, absolute, definition of freedom - which is insulting and wrong.

> > Having a job which doesn't involve non-free software is a nice ideal that a 
> > lot
> > of people get to enjoy, some don't though and changing jobs is not easy for
> > everyone.
> Changing from proprietary software is itself not easy, either. Yet we
> advocate that

The way you worded this suggests that I don't recommend that we advocate Free
Software in the workplace, which is (deliberately, perhaps) misleading.

Advocating is fine, but telling someone "it's easy, stop moaning" is insulting.

> > As a young intelligent white male I feel your perspective of the job
> > market might, possibly, be a _little_ skewed. ;)
> I don't mean to suggest you are racist or sexist, but I reject racism
> and sexism so I'll decline to comment on this.

I think you have horrendously misunderstood my point.

I was not saying that you SHOULD have it easy, I was saying that you DO.

Discrimination exists, against old people, non-white people and women.

You can't "reject" this because it is a fact of the society you live in.

> And in both cases, as MJ points out, this is basically "ad hominen" nonsense.

Again, you have gravely misunderstood my point.

As a young, intelligent, white, male you are sitting on the fortunate side of
some very important social barriers and the intention of my comment was to point
this out to you in a hope that you might realise that your perspective of the
job market might be influenced by your favourable position within society.

An ad hominem attack would be where I argued that your position was wrong simply
because of who you are and not what your position was, which is logically flawed
reasoning. Instead I am pointing out to you that your position may be largely
influenced by your social standing, which is a sociologically sound argument.

> > I know quite a few graphic designers (my father included) who have clearly
> > outlined that it is an area where there are absolutely no production quality
> > free software alternatives to the likes of Adobe and Quark.
> Adobe is a company, not a program. Quark is a company with one program,
> XPress, for which Scribus is a production quality replacement.

Yes, I was aware of this(!) I would argue that making blanket statements about
the production quality of free software alternatives is a dangerous thing to do
until you can cite some sources which indicate such programs are in use by
professional design agencies.

> GIMP is due to support CMYK within 2 years thanks to GEGL's BABL system.
> Krita already supports CMYK.

Again, while this may be good news, it's important not to exaggerate the facts
when talking about the free software alternatives. If these tools are not in use
by a number of professional design agencies then recommending them as production
ready is misleading and should be avoided.

> Skills are learned, time and interest is a matter of personal habit, and very
> small amounts of money are required for starting free software businesses.

You're missing the point, again.

Aside from the fact that getting seed funding for a small business is a
non-trivial affair (and if you think it isn't, perhaps it's time to examine your
social perspective again) not everyone wants to do this, nor is it practical.

My father uses OS X, Adobe suite and Quark on a daily basis and he's perfectly
happy making his money this way. He's also very liberal and supports and
respects my work for various free software organisations.

If you told him that he should give up his career in graphic design to start a
free software company that produces alternatives for his (previous) profession
he would probably, and quite rightly, laugh at you before asking "Why should I?"

The only honest response to his question is "to support my ethical perspective."

... which is clearly absurd.

> Ownership is about control; the best way to own a business is to
> minimise the control of the business by outsiders. Proprietary
> software means control by outsiders.

Sure, but it's all about return on investment. How much more value is there to
be had by investing time and money in developing a free software alternative to
some random bit of software you happen to use when that same money could be
spent improving the customer service department, hiring a new account buyer or
developing some other crucial bit of infrastructure.

There are certain areas where free software alternative do not exist yet.

Graphic design, accounting, modelling, simulation, games etc...

If you happen to be in an industry that uses software where there are no good
free alternatives (and what business doesn't need accounting software) then
unless you have an obscenely large budget, you really have no other choice.

> >> That's again an exaggeration; its clear that you like GNU but don't agree
> >> with its philosophy.
> >
> > Absolutes, again. Maybe he half agrees? :p
> I fail to see how you can half agree that proprietary software is unethical

The GNU Manifesto and the free software philosophy is a set of ethical ideas and
guidelines that can be agreed with in varying degrees. That you see this as a
binary matter, black and white, is a large part of the problem.

Noah Slater - Bytesexual <http://bytesexual.org/>

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