Re: GNOME and the free software movement

On Sun, 26 Nov 2006, Tristan Van Berkom wrote:

> Joachim Noreiko wrote:
> >>for the advance of computer users' freedom.
> >>
> >>
> >
> >What freedoms exactly?
> >
> >The computer users I know can't code. What are they
> >going to with the source code they have the freedom to
> >modify?
> >And free as in beer makes no difference to them: they
> >either got their Windows XP with their Dell, or from a
> >bloke they know with a CD burner.
> >
> > Freedoms that you can't exercise are meaningless.

As has already been stated the "freedom" to have others work on your
behalf is valuable.  This is especially valuable if the software you care
about has enough other people who care about it and maintain it.

>    I know others have replied, both with solid arguments but
> I thought I could point to at least one practicle value of free software
> to the modern user as we know it. Lets just take open data formats
> for example -

Please do not confuse software freedom with open standards. These are
quite important but distinctly different issues and I would thank you to
keep them seperated.

There are better examples of the benefits of software freedom, some of
which have already been mentioned.

> free software ensures that data formats stay open to a fine degree
> (since the source is always available to those who implement the format)
> - this gives the user a choice:

Without even mentioning software patents it is entirely possible to create
applications where the source code is available but the file format is so
entirely obscure, undocumented, and incompatible with other software as to
be practically useless.  The availability of source code only reduces
vendor lock-in, it does not remove it entirely.  The EU rejected offers
from Microsoft to release their code, because code changes but they can be
held to a specification.

>        .doc that landed in your inbox (read more [1])... ofcourse theres
>        the possibility of using some software that illegally reverse
> engeneered
>        the encrypted proprietary format.. but again, most probably
> illegally.

depending on local laws
reverse engineering is protected by law
breaking encryption schemes is prohibited by law

To the best of my knowledge reverse engineering is almost always protected
and not illegal of itself but other details may stand in the way of
retreiving your own data.

>   b.) they can use an open file format and then their rights as a
>        consumer are protected, they are free to use any tool on the market
>        to read and modify a said format.

Free software certainly complements open standards but having the source
code isn't always as strong a guarantee as you might think.


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