By Justin Breithaupt.
Recently I’ve been talking with Richard Stallman for 2 – 3 weeks on the subject of running free-software. ( Richard Stallman is the president and founder of the FSF or Free Software Foundation. ) What I got out of reading Richard Stallman’s writings and e-mails was that free-software as in freedom is software that has it’s source code released to the public and the public is allowed to modify and redistribute that software as well. This does not necessarily mean free as in cost. This includes drivers and firmware as well.
If your running hardware that has non-free software / firmware in it you can’t use it because that’s against the FSF and if that hardware requires non-free drivers you can’t use it according to the FSF.
I did research to find hardware that supported a modern PCI Express video card with 3D that would work with the free drivers. I also looked for motherboards.
What I did find was obsolete and would require me to spend more money to aquire. At the time I was trying to start a business charging kids to play games on my computers. (playing just free-software games would have been ok).
So now we have rulled out free-software only GNU/Linux distributions and hardware out of the picture. What is the alternitive?
Open Source / FOSS is the alternative. Businesses and countless others such as Ubuntu have went to Open Source / FOSS which is the idea that non-free software and free-software can coexist. This sounds great doesn’t it? The problem is that these people get lazy and don’t try to make free-software and become independent of non-free software any more. Instead they get money from big companies like DELL, IBM, HP, ect. to put non-free drivers in their kernels so that the vendor’s hardware will be supported with Ubuntu’s kernel even though it has non-free software in it and it will work on almost any computer. Sounds great Right? But how does this help make us independent from Corporate America and all the non-free software? It doesn’t.
The other problem is companies like NVIDIA are making it harder to use their proprietary drivers. ATI however has the respect of the FSF for now. NVIDIA drivers for newer cards and chipsets don’t seem to play friendly with GNU/Linux distributions unless you download Ubuntu’s latest kernel. Why? Why are all the rest of us left in the dark? Why must we become dependent on Ubuntu and Corporate America?
A perfect example of this is Ubuntu 8.04. It’s kernel is not even up to date enough to support the newest NVIDIA drivers that are out there and in some instances you can’t install it. I based the latest version of Ultumix TM off of Ubuntu. I updated the kernel and guess what it works! But why should you have to update the kernel every month. Any GNU/Linux hardcore hacker will tell you that’s a bad idea and will make your programs and system unstable.
The thing is whenever it’s possible to use free software to do your work you should but you should not be limited to just using free-software all together. Likewise the developers should work harder to create free-software, drivers, firmware, ect. We also need hardware made by companies that support the free-software idea that the drivers and frimware should be free-software.
The other major problem in FOSS is that the different distros and communities fight with each other to get to the top of distrowatch.com and say they are the best. I’ve heard officials from the Ubuntu community say to me that they believe that their distro is the best one out there and that users should only be presented with Ubuntu. Why I asked? Because of the confusion of choice they answered. Free-software is all about freedom of choice and not a one world takeover. Lets get back to the GPL guys. And worst of all the people who are really in charge of these projects have lost control. Their moderators go wild in the forums and make people angry and ban people for nothing.
So now that that’s all clearly spelled out to you take two tablets of Tylenol as we discuss the solution.
The Freedom-Software Community TM or FSC can and will solve all of these problems if Linux distributions join in. The FSC has not officially or publicly announced it’s presence before. That’s because they are still working on writing it’s philosophy for people to follow.
Here is the basic idea:
You are expected to use free software when:
1. There is hardware that is supported by free-software and the hardware is in no way more restricted than when it’s using non-free software.
2. The abilities of the non-free software that are needed are not met by the free software.
3. When the expenses of using free-software are affordable. Example of when this would not be the case: You want to run the hardware that supports free-software and has all the abilities of similar hardware that only supports non-free software but the hardware that supports the free-software is either obsolete or too expensive for the average consumer.
At any other time you are expected to try and use free-software and even if these conditions above don’t exist you are expected to try to support free-software in whatever way you can.
There are more aspects to the Freedom-Software Community that prevent fighting and arguing and promote unity and community. You will have to wait for the announcement in the news to hear that unless your an active member of the Ultumix TM Project.
The FSC TM is a Trademark of Justin Breithaupt.