Anyone who has benefited from the open source movement – which I guess is anyone who uses the Internet – should respect the Free Software Foundation for its efforts in championing the cause. Linux, Apache, PHP: all shining examples of how the community working alongside (not against) the software industry can create software of amazing value.
Speaking for myself, this site runs on WordPress, Apache, Linux and MySQL. There are proprietary alternatives, but they cost more and in some cases work less well. I also run a Linux server in my office, and boot into Linux on my laptop – though less often since Windows 7 arrived.
It is this latter point that seems to have spooked the FSF, which has launched an ill-conceived attack on both Windows 7 and proprietary software in general. There’s even a website dedicated to the sinfulness of Windows.
Unfortunately the campaign is both misdirected and poorly executed. The open letter tends toward hysteria and not all its points stand up to scrutiny.
Like its plans to include DRM restrictions with Windows Vista, Microsoft’s continued attacks against the security, privacy and freedom of your organization, are no mistake.
Well, the protected media path does exist, but I’m not clear how this has impacted organizations using Vista; Microsoft says it is inactive when non-DRM media is played, and I have no reason to disbelieve this.
There are significant privacy issues for users today, but are they Windows-related? I’d suggest that it is the Internet that is more significant here, and Google more than Microsoft that is the threat. Switching to Linux will not change that.
With its most recent actions, it further threatens computing standards by polluting and perverting the OpenDocument standard with its own XML-based file format.
This one is odd: Microsoft’s Open XML is not part of the OpenDocument standard, though in some respects it competes with it. Thus, it cannot be polluting or perverting it, though it could make it less pervasive.
With this and other misleading points the FSF weakens its case and makes it less likely to be taken seriously.
Leaving that aside though, would it pay organizations to abandon Windows, Office and/or OS X in favour of Linux? It might in some cases; but I’ve spent enough time with Linux and open source software to realise that it is not the best solution to every problem.
Vista and its poor reputation has been a gift to those offering alternatives, including Apple as well as free software advocates, and that is about to change as Windows 7 launches. Not that Windows 7 is perfect; but it is a job well done.
That said, we need the free software movement, and we need the likes of Linux and OpenOffice.org, if only to be a restraining influence to the high prices and proprietary lock-in which the big software companies – whatever they may say – like to impose. There is some truth in what the FSF claims – but not enough to make this an effective campaign.
See also Alan Zeichick’s remarks.