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Re: [libreplanet-discuss] Why contains in nonfree that's not ethical?

From: Adam Bolte
Subject: Re: [libreplanet-discuss] Why contains in nonfree that's not ethical?
Date: Mon, 16 Mar 2015 13:52:47 +1100
User-agent: Mutt/1.5.21 (2010-09-15)

On Sun, Mar 15, 2015 at 07:17:43AM -0700, Milton Krutt wrote:
> Let's divide people in two sets: We, and the Others.
> Let's also mention some humans' things:
> Interest (in something),
> Money,
> Privacy.
> For the Geeks:
> the more you are able to deploy your software and limit the four freedoms, the
> more you get money (and inhibit comptetitors).
> For the nonGeeks is quite the same: the don't criticize the product
> they use UNLESS it will cause them some significative and
> concentrated (in a single event) loss of money. They don't really
> care about spending little amounts of money in a distributed edge of
> time. For instance, it is normal for them buying a new laptop once
> every two years just because Windows is too heavy for the older
> opposite, they are almost happy, since that is a change to
> do some shopping!

Further, a sysadmin could be interested in virtualization tech and
maybe doesn't care about access to the code in some situations as long
as she can get his work done as efficiently as possible, and a
developer maybe couldn't care less about using proprietary PaaS or
SaaS, as long as she doesn't have to deal with sysadmin stuff. Maybe
she links in popular proprietary components or services to boost
popularity of the application - and cares more about how much her
software is used rather than about how free the users using it are.

There is also the advertising/hype machines companies like Apple spin
up which sometimes cater directly to geeks to attract them to
proprietary software. It's amazing how many geeks I see attracted to
such hardware and proprietary software because of shiny things with
lots of marketing. My point is that even geeks can be subject to not
caring about privacy or the four freedoms almost as easily, and not
just the ones who care about making the most money.

I think the only reason so many geeks seemingly *are* interested
(relative to non-geeks) is because it's very difficult to get
non-geeks into GNU/Linux. Even today, people need to know in advance
about free software to decide to use it. They can't just walk down to
a shop and ask "What's the difference between this laptop running
Windows and this other laptop running Trisquel?"  and get a quick
answer explaining the differences - in reality the Trisquel machine is
never presented as an option.

All the campaigning in the world (to end users) isn't going to make a
significant impact either, since most non-geeks won't know how to
replace their operating system, would be too scared to even try,
wouldn't want to risk their warranty, or maybe wouldn't have friends
to assist when they get stuck on something. They maybe could find out
about a local free software group, but as great as those often are,
they also have a tendency to be quite geeky by their nature -
sometimes even when they try not to be. It is probably unrealistic to
completely rely on such a group for local support anyway.

( As an aside, perhaps as a stop-gap measure, a website to advertise
free software support from geeks (either paid or voluntary) in your
area could be useful or even successful? I'm sure a lot of geeks
wouldn't mind helping strangers out for a few hours each month or
something. )

Until we are at a point when people can walk into their local computer
store and see free software as a supported option, free software will
continue to primarily cater to geeks. Sadly, EeePCs and SteamOS boxes
(both widely available at retail) didn't or won't promote or mention
free software at all.

As much as I don't like the current GNOME 3 direction (since as a geek
I like to customize everything and GNOME removes much of that
flexibility), it can recognize the importance of having something like
that. It's potentially a piece to the puzzle of getting a computer
made that could be sold in stores to promote free software - so
non-geeks finally have a real chance to discover it.

> Last, they don't care about Privacy, unless they can experience a
> significative and concentrated shameful situation. They don't care
> about giving away small pieces of life to some nonfree software
> developer, thanks to some nasty feature in their dayly software,
> since the thing they fear most is their physical neighbour; and he
> will never know which websites the person visited or which searches
> the person fed to Google.

Exactly this. I have had discussions with non-geeks about using
software to improve user privacy (where they wanted to purchase a
proprietary SaaS application subscription). They didn't care at all -
as long as the people around them wasn't aware of what would be
submitted to the software.

People I work with use Skype regularly. I've tried to get them to use
Jingle over XMPP (and put all the infrastructure and accounts in
place). I've even suggested Mumble, but they refuse to use anything
other than Skype because it's the easiest for them - they already talk
to other people on Skype and don't want to deal with multiple
clients. The small inconvenience to gain privacy from strangers is
sadly not worth it to them. People generally want to go with whatever
software or process they perceive to be normal.

Everyone knows about what the NSA is doing thanks to Snoden, but
people still don't care enough because they cannot see how their
personal information will ever be used against them during their
lifetime. Most things to them seem nothing more than unlikely
hypothetical possibilities - but of course by the time people notice a
problem it will be too late. Even then, they won't lose sleep over it
because they'll probably consider everyone else would be in the same
situation and it probably won't impact them exclusively. The
possibility of being impacted exclusively of people around them
running the same risks would be even smaller.

I'm sure there are other people out there that do care about privacy
and are fighting for it, but I don't anyone like that (in person)
outside of people I know from free software meet-ups.

> To synthesize, it seems that if a person get evil in a distributed
> (on time and/or space) manner, than that evil is quite tolerable, so
> the person ends up to consider the free software cause "over
> concerned"; then he will not care about it.

All other things being equal I imagine most people would elect for
privacy and free software, but not everything else is equal. The
closest we ever came to getting hardware in stores (for example) was
with the Asus EeePC (which didn't promote the free software

In my opinion, most people also value familiarity and common practice
over privacy. If Firefox, Chrome and Internet Explorer all bundled
NoScript and said "this is the standard recommended way people should
use a web browser, so we've integrated the tools to let you get on
with it", I bet a lot of people (including all the geeks) would start
using it. But the way things are now, these tools are effectively
pushing the message that it's normal to ignore privacy.

Heck, even Tor switched to allowing all scripts be executed by default
(which introduced privacy leaks, as I recall) - because they don't
want to break the trends and isolate themselves from what everyday
users expect. I don't see how we can ever win against this situation
either, because browsers and other software are attempting to compete
on ease of use, which itself is generally a trade-off of security and
privacy. Just look at how Firefox has caved to implementing EME,
removed the option to disable JavaScript, etc.

In another example of how difficult it is to work against such trends,
I e-mailed a well-known charity website last week because a simple
submission form used for petition signing required non-free JavaScript
just to function, and did not even run over HTTPS. So far, the
response I have received indicated that they don't really care. "I
hope you can switch to a browser that supports our JavaScript" they
say, seemingly not acknowledging my message that I chose not to run it

People who demand privacy are the minority, to the point that we can
now be ignored. The Snowden leaks do not appear to have slammed on the
brakes as I would have hoped. People don't seem to see it as their
personal problem, but rather a problem for other people (software
developers, politicians, etc.) to sort out for them because any
backwards step from efficiency and ease of use improvements is
unacceptable to them.

So in my opinion, this is not just about a gradual distributed evil
with no huge immediate impact that is causing the problem. The problem
- in general - is also that we need to fight the trends everyone is
trying to work towards, such as improvements in efficiency and ease of
use above all else. We need to figure out a way to get projects like
Firefox to refocus on the actual issues, where even the Snoden leaks
did not succeed.

> Please, don't take this message as pessimistic, it is just a picture
> and a point of view for those that consider the disregard of average
> users for free software as "strange" or "should not happen".

I don't think you are trying to deliberately be pessimistic - but it's
difficult to describe the current situation realistically without
sounding a bit like that. Nobody's saying we should give up - we're
simply defining the challenge. :)


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