Wise Software Choice

28th October 2018

Prologue

Free Software is software that allows public access to the code and copyright permissions to read, modify and re-distribute it.

The Free Software Foundations 1, 2, 3, 4 and Free Software community believe that Free Software is essential for society and community. Proprietary software deprives us our rights and acts as an instrument of unjust power. You can read more about Free Software on the GNU website. Also see my article The Free Software movement is Barking up the wrong tree.

Neither this, nor that

I am rare as a FSF-donating Free Software enthusiast in not being absolutist about using only 100% Free Software.

I'm more interested in pondering what it means to be a Technologically Advanced Human who's living, loving, sharing, travelling and working with technology every day.

It's not about swearing loyalty to some brand like "Free Software" or "Open Source", it's about having actual understanding about the technology we're using.

So let me explain now what I expect from you as a Technologically Advanced human, as pertains to Software.

seperator

I don't expect you to use only Free Software; sometimes there is no Free option. But Free Software should be the default because it's understandable, audit-able and compatible with community and a responsible society. So you should know what proprietary software you're using and why. And be using it for the right reasons.

Some examples of valid reasons:

Examples of wrong reasons:

Why?

Now I try to explain why these wrong reasons are wrong for your enwizenment.

I don't know what terms this software is distributed under

Well that is silly because then you don't know if you're even using it legally. Or what expectations of privacy and liability you can expect from the software's author. The Licence Agreement (EULA) could contain anything.

And if you didn't read the EULA because it's it's "too long" or wasn't made visible to you, then that is in itself a reason not to use the software. If the author licences their software under a bespoke licence and they provide no readable summary of what's in it, then that implies that they don't want you to read it for some reason.

Also you can easily avoid the problem of having to audit the licences on your software by getting your software from an audited repository such as Debian or F-Droid. That's why these repositories exist.

I don't care if the software is Free or not

Well you should care because it's irresponsible for us as a society to be using technology we do not understand. Even if you are not a programmer yourself you should be linking yourself in with the software community and benefiting from their wisdom, rather than foolishly trusting mega-corps who are known to be untrustworthy.

Here's an easy-to-read article that might help you to appreciate Free Software: On Technology Obscurity.

I have to use proprietary software because the device only works with one piece of software

An example when this happens is if you have a device that's handicapped such that you can't change the operating system. Or the hardware is exotic so that standard tools don't work on it.

If you're buying a laptop, desktop or server you should be aiming to get one which a few different operating systems work on so you have a choice. It's imperative that you have that choice.

For phones or tablets the situation is a bit more awkward but I usually buy second-hand phones that work well with LineageOS so I can run a Free Software OS that respects my rights as a computer user. If you want to use LineageOS check it supports your phone before you buy it.

Check out Freed Computer, a site I made for people to share success stories about them building or converting computers to Free Software.

I'm locked into a proprietary ecosystem by my device or OS

You need to be in a position where you can choose your software on a case-by-case basis, because when you get locked into and ecosystem that's when you get exploited.

Avoid Microsoft and Apple operating systems because not only are these proprietary themselves but these companies engage you with software ecosystems which make it difficult to use Free Software. For example the Apple app store bans software under the GPL licence (the most common licence for Free Software).

Have fun!

I hope you found this article and the linked resources enlightening! Next you might be interested in my article How to use Free Software. And if you use non-free software I hope you have a good reason why!