[PLUG] FOSS Activity and Non-Technical People

steve steve at lonetwin.net
Thu Sep 30 12:04:08 IST 2010

Hi Vinayak,

On 09/30/2010 09:05 AM, Vinayak Kulkarni wrote:
> Hi All
> According to Richard Stallman (.. whom I personally respect), 'User should
> experience a freedom to use the software'. But I think that the freedom they
> wanted was quiet right at their era, because computers were used by mostly
> technical people. So that category of people required free and open source
> software.
...umm, ok.

> But in today s world even common public is also using the computer I mean
> Non-Technical personals also using the computers for their general work. And
> more importantly, Thing about software that it is Free or Paid does not
> matter to them (.. mostly all of them use pirated copies of the software).
> They are more comfortable with that.

Hmm. Firstly, you are making a (very common) mistake of confusing 'Free of Cost 
Software' (which we call Freeware) with 'Free Software' (which we promote and 
sometimes call Free/Open Source Software). These are 2 different things. There 
exist Free software that comes for a price too.

Secondly, while I might agree that non-technical users might not require access 
to the code for the software they use (ie: the freedoms 1,2 and 3, as Richard 
Stallman calls it[1]), they most certainly *need* freedom 0 -- ie: The freedom 
to run the program, for any purpose.

This freedom is often understated in our community because it seems so obvious 
that we take it for granted.

However, think about this a bit -- what can you do with a old copy of 
DOS/Windows 95/...or any other software. Can you install it on a low powered 
system to revive it ? Can you donate your old software CDs to schools or other 
places that might need it ? No, since doing so would be illegal !

Another scenario is assume you have some software that does function X but you 
realize that it would be useful in a different situation to perform function Y. 
The End User License Agreement (EULA) of most proprietary software would make it 
illegal for you to do that.

Practical examples of software that does not give you freedom 0 are everywhere:
- Apple restricts the use of your iphone/itouch/ipod within their software
- Various media players restrict what can/cannot be played using things like 
encoding and DRM (I am speaking of 'software' limitations and not hardware ones)
- The kindle restricts access to, in fact deletes without your knowledge or 
consent, books after you paid for them

These are things that even non-technical users are concerned with.

A little over a month ago, I replied to a similar thread on ILUG-C. Here is an 
excerpt from it ...

Most proprietary software is 'licensed' to the user under something called the 
'EULA' (End User License Agreement). If you have ever installed any proprietary 
software, you would have seen the EULA and clicked the 'I Accept' agreement to 
install it. It is a good exercise to try and read these EULAs.

Think of these EULAs as a 'rental' or 'lease' agreement. Although you pay money, 
you are not 'buying' the software, you are 'leasing' it because, you don't 
really 'own' the software ! Since, you can't do whatever you want with it -- for 
example you cannot share it with anyone, or you cannot use it on more than one 
system or you cannot change it to suit your needs or you cannot resell an old 
copy of it or you cannot even make a 'copy' or it for backup purposes. Doing any 
of these might be illegal.

The entire post is here:

I encourage you to read it (the entire thread too, confusion and trolls 
notwithstanding :) ).

hope that helps clarify things,

- steve

[1] http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html

random spiel: http://lonetwin.net/
what i'm stumbling into: http://lonetwin.stumbleupon.com/

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