Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Am I a Religious Zealot?

A question was asked the other day - "Why do you support free software?"

Here's a recent quote by rms that I agree with wholeheartedly and without question -
"Fundamentally, the use of a non-free software program gives somebody power of the kind that nobody should have. And therefore software should be free. Computer users should always have the freedom to control their computers. And they should be free to cooperate with each other in doing so."
The proprietary world has an interesting way of dealing with this view. They call it "religious" and brand those who see the fundamental necessity for humanity to use computing technology in freedom as "zealots." Painting a picture of extremism is a common tactic. As an educator currently working to implement Free Software in a school setting I was once told by a colleague -
"Basically, you're making us all suffer because of your philosophy."
Generally, this is not the reaction I get when fellow colleagues take time to listen to the facts. When people understand the facts, they realize that "suffering" is different than the absence of a particular feature. For example, suffering is dealing with spyware, worms, back-doors, and obfuscated e-voting machines. Suffering is not being able to share a program with a friend. Suffering is being told when, how, or how often you can watch your movies or listen to your music. In a nutshell, suffering is when code fundamentally controls the operations of your machine and your data.

Of course, it's up to each individual to decide how their values stack in regard to the use of computers. Unfortunately, many define "suffering" as a lack of convenience ("That 'Linux' machine won't run my games!", "I need iTunes!") rather than the absence of freedom.

As the technology coordinator of a school, I am largely responsible for the direction computing technology takes. By switching a school's machines to a Free Software platform, am I doing what's right for the school? Or am I committing an act of intolerant "religious zealotry" by making colleagues "suffer" due to my "philosophy"?

Am I a "religious zealot"?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting blog Peter

Anonymous Anonymous said...

While i agree with your sentiments about free software, i still can't see a link between technology and the words "religious zealot". I think you should look the words up singularly, then look then up as a saying to understand what they actually mean.


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