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[DotGNU]The Sacrifice of Idealism: Pioneering FS (was Re: free "software

From: S11001001
Subject: [DotGNU]The Sacrifice of Idealism: Pioneering FS (was Re: free "software" & geeky nitpicking)
Date: Tue, 11 Jun 2002 18:38:35 -0500
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux i686; en-US; rv:1.1a) Gecko/20020608

I assume that when you say "commercial", you really mean "proprietary", as there is commercial software that is free, and non-commercial software that is not free.

Please read inline comments.

David Bradley wrote:
I think the biggest barrier is that your average users doesn't have the time or knowledge to find and deal with free software. Most computers come with an OS and basic applications installed. They're quite happy with what they have. Also you can find books and other people to help you with the commercial software.

When I say "average users to advocate Free Software," I am really not referring to average users, in the sense that they are "quite happy with what they have." I am talking about people who are willing to put up with this frustration that you feel and ask for help because they appreciate the freedom that comes with free software. I am talking about people willing to take the time and ask for help, or to read documentation (gasp!), just so that they can say they run a Free machine.

Why is just using help? First, let me emphasize your note on "an OS and basic applications installed." Once enough people decide to switch to freedom, perhaps some will find it useful to implement more ease-of-use and preconfiguration, such as having a completely set-up GNU/Linux or GNU/Hurd machine that you can buy at WalMart(TM) or wherever. But let me repeat, some users are going to have to make the sacrifice for freedom _first_, _before_ this will happen. I quote Dave Barry, because this is quite seriously the attitude of the consumer:

<<So there are many different operating systems available, each with different capabilities, advantages, and drawbacks. Which one is right for your specific needs? The answer is: _Whichever one is already on your computer_. Believe me, you do _not_ want to try to install a new operating system yourself.>>

So proprietary software is not a monopoly for any other reason than that it is self-sustaining. Let me note that I would prefer a world where enough people cared more about freedom than pre-configuration. Because it _is_ more important.

On the comment about "other people to help you with the [proprietary] software," certainly there are many out there who would be glad to help you with free software. Even if you don't RTFM ;)

As for docs, I don't know about everyone else, but the amount of docs sitting in various places on my HD scares me sometimes.

My first experience with Linux a few years ago really dowsed my enthusiasm. I had hoped to quickly setup a simple web server. I spent many evenings trying to get the system configured. None of the books and online documentation I had at my disposal was accurate. I had to piece information together from all sources before I finally was able to get things up and running. Only then to run into the exact same problem with the SQL engine. I gave up. While if I was in a tinkering mode, I might have enjoyed this, my goal was not to tinker and play with an OS. I've setup similar commercial systems in a day.

My question is, what do you really gain by this day-long setup? A working, yet proprietary system.

When the pioneers of free software first went on the "Free Software diet", certainly they did not have all the functionality. They did not have all the resources to create it immediately. We need people to join up now, who will put in the extra work and time to ensure that people of the future can have a Free operating system.

Nobody ever said that GNU/Linux would be easier to set up and use. Or at least I didn't. Unfortunately, the `open-source' people have done so quite often, I believe. But to answer your problem, "it's not easy enough to use", it will be resolved in time, but not with out the users' help. This is why I nag my brother to send in bug reports and such.

The same will hold true for dotGNU. If the startup costs and learning curve are significantly higher than .Net don't expect Windows developers to flock in droves to use this. dotGNU will be an alternative for the Microsoft Haters Union, but not the main stream Windows developer. If you want to be more than a fringe element you have to be attractive to these types of developers. And at least from what I've seen so far, it's just not there.

I suggest you have a look at the DotGNU Development Environment (DGDE, not an IDE) proposals in my old DotGNU tasklist <>.

And personally, I don't care about the `Microsoft Haters Union'. All companies' proprietary software activities deserve the same amount of derision. Criticizing an entire company is the wrong focus; specific actions and attitudes are more important.

I think Microsoft realized this many years ago and why they do invest as much in their dev tools as they do. They got bit early on by Borland. Microsoft used to be lagging behind Borland and others. And I think they realized the importance of having a large group of developers willing to write software for your OS. It was a long term investment that has paid off. While the cost of acquiring free software is free, development using free software has a higher cost than developing with commercial tools.

Again, we need developers to say "I don't care how much easier MS tools are to use, because they are not Free."

It is a sacrifice for the good of all. The problem is, _somebody_ has to make that sacrifice. I am extremely proud to say that I have, even though it's easier for me than some others.

Anyway, it is also a "diet". Sure, it you may feel a little queasy around dinnertime, but you know it's good for you.

Closing with Yet Another RMS Quote:

I think that freedom is more important than mere technical advance. I
would always choose a less advanced free program rather than a more
advanced nonfree program, because I won't give up my freedom for
something like that. My rule is, if I can't share it with you, I won't
take it.
        -- RMS

Stephen Compall
DotGNU `Contributor' --

My views about copyright take an hour to expound, but one general
principle applies: it cannot justify denying the public important
freedoms. As Abraham Lincoln put it, "Whenever there is a conflict
between human rights and property rights, human rights must prevail."
Property rights are meant to advance human well-being, not as an
excuse to disregard it.
        -- RMS, "The GNU GPL and the American Way"

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