[CS-FSLUG] [Linux4christians] Response to a Libre Software Skeptic

Timothy Butler tbutler at ofb.biz
Sun Jan 15 17:53:25 CST 2012

On Jan 13, 2012, at 12:39 PM, Marco Tedaldi wrote:

> We don't need copyright and patents! These things only benefit some few
> big companies. And the broad public pays for expensive lawsuits and a
> closed market! Patents hinder competition. We don't get the best product
> because the competition is held out of the market...

I think you are thinking too narrowly. I continue to use Free Software and just moved a friend over to Ubuntu the other day... but... I use a Mac. If someone has the money to get one, I recommend a Mac over Ubuntu. Why? Because, they are easier to use, require less technical knowhow, etc. I switch from desktop GNU/Linux to a Mac because I no longer had time to tweak my system to get it to work how I wanted it to. (Maybe I wouldn't have switched if Ubuntu 11.10 had existed then, but given the state of Fedora, SuSE, etc., back in 2004...).

Big point: users benefit from software from proprietary companies. Stick a designer in front of Photoshop and then move him in front of the GIMP. Guess which one he can get more done on? And it isn't just familiarity. I went from the GIMP to Photoshop. My productivity went way up thanks to the superior design of Photoshop. This isn't a slam against the incredibly robust, free GIMP, but the public benefits from proprietary software.

Part of this is because proprietary software developers like Apple can employ hundreds of people in the pursuit of perfection on a UI design. Typically, a FOSS developer is either a volunteer or paid by a company that needs the software -- therefore, since their job isn't to sell the software, but to make it work, they are usually far more pragmatic in producing it. Does it work? Frequently. Does it have "vision"? Far less frequently.

I think the current state of the Linux desktop is impressive (especially Ubuntu), but it is essentially blending Mac OS X, iOS and Windows. If those proprietary systems didn't exist, I don't think FOSS internally would have enough vision to create the same compelling experience. Proprietary software at its best keeps FOSS striving towards something easy to use and beautiful. Free Software keeps the proprietary folks from abusing customers.

I think that balance is really helpful.


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