Freespire and the Proprietary Software Debate
May 11, 2006 Leave a comment
At the recent Desktop Linux Summit, Kevin Carmony announced the release of Freespire. From the site:
Freespire is a community-driven, Linux-based operating system that combines the best that free, open source software has to offer (community driven, freely distributed, open source code, etc.), but also provides users the choice of including proprietary codecs, drivers and applications as they see fit. With Freespire, the choice is yours as to what software is installed on your computer, with no limitations or restrictions placed on that choice.
I think everyone knew this was Open Source dynamite waiting to happen and Kevin admitted that Linspire had been planning this for years, but didn't think the Linux community was ready until now. Reaction to the announcement was what you'd expect and included this vitriol response from Groklaw. A response from Kevin is available on LXer. This of course is a topic that I've discussed here ad nauseum. Kevin does make one good point. 10 years has really made little difference when it comes to vendor support. Now, in that 10 years Linux has improved so much that it's hard to believe, but US hardware manufacturers haven't really come around. Either have many of the software vendors. Photoshop, current versions of flash, Dreamweaver, Quicken – none of them available for Linux and no announcement that it will become so. Does that mean we should give up the fight? Hell no, but a different approach might not hurt. It's hard for a group the represents 1% of the market to demand something, whether we're right or not. Does Open Source produce better software? Undeniably, yes. Should we all value our freedom? Absolutely! the thing is, the majority of the computer users don't care about “better” software nor freedom in the context of software. Yeah – it is sad, but it's reality. Education is part of the key here of course, but so is getting people to try Linux. Right now, too many people just don't care. Us insisting that religion be part of the package certainly isn't going to change that. Now sure, I'll keep trying to educate. I'd like to think I've enabled more people to drop non-free software than most. Someone focusing on the other parts may not hurt though. The problem is, it's a slippery slope. “A Doomsday scenario” by Arjan van de Ven could legitimately become a reality. So could Linux never gaining any discernable market share on the desktop. I'm starting to think that may not be so bad. The server poses many less problems on this front (no MP3, no 3D cards, no DVD, etc.) and those of us who want to run Linux on the desktop because of the libre reasons I suspect have been for a long long time. I doubt companies will see it that way (there's just too much money involved), and someone giving Microsoft real competition is just too compelling for the rest of us to ignore. Something has to give though, and at this point it looks like it's going to give soon. Something tells me it might be ugly.
Freespire, Linspire, Open Source, Free Software, Linux