13 April 2012

Why yes, I am a fascist!

I really beat my chest in public professing how anti fascism I am! And i just recently found out that I am a fascist myself! Let me explain. There is this watchdog group called the FSF ( fascist software foundation ( free software foundation ) ) that decide who to kill during the imminent uprising.

An awesome additional view on the subject is the Linux Action Show interview whit Richard Stallman , and their negative in the freedom dimension follow up! ( actually don't waste your time reading this, just go watch the two episodes ( come back if you want to hate on the FSF some more afterwards ) )

The problem isn't really a problem, It's just weird. The free software foundation doesn't endorse the free open source projects that have brought awesome to free software. This is a link to the website of the organisation that explains why, and you can keep reading to see why I disagree. The two main issues against the popular distributions are:
        -no or no clear or not strict enough policy against non free software
        -"blobs" in the Kernel
On the basis of these two rules the FSF excludes Debian and Fedora and other distros. Fedora is excluded based on nonfree firmware, which is double speak for hardware support. So in that case the free software foundation discriminates against hardware, dictating what hardware you can use, I thought only Apple did that! Whenever thinking about FOSS I always tend to think in the context of new users, so let's pull a new user out of our hat and see what happens to him. Our user has a laptop, he has had it for several years. It is old, but works. His problem is that it's too old for Windows 7 but Windows XP has too many virus issues.

So he hears about this thing GNU/Linux from a hippie friend of his. He googles it and ends up on the FSF website. From there he finds a download link to one of the truly free distros , and goes for Trisquel because it has the nicest icon. Now this is a guy who doesn't know much about computers, manages to go through the installation process. Post install his wifi may or may not work, he has a bison webcam that will never work ( but don't tell him, he is going to find this out after installing skype ), and his screen bleeps black from time to time. He google searches again and finds out he needs the proprietary driver from nvidia. Now to add insult to injury the FSF has decided that if it is easy to acquire a nonfree piece of firmware, than you don't comply, thus Debian ( which is otherwise blob clear ) wasn't in the list since they have an easy ( the FSF is trying to make easy sound like child molester ) way of making the system usable. But that means that if Trisquel is in the list then they got on the list by making it hard for our fictional user. What do I mean by hard? Here is what nvidia told him.
nvidia's Linux driver install instructions
nvidia's Linux driver install instructions 
What they didn't tell him is that he needs to be in runlevel 3, noveau needs to be blocked by an argument in the boot loader, he needs dkms, gcc and the kernel-dev headers and stuff.

At this point he thinks "To hell with google!" and he picks up the phone, he tells his hippie friend ( I hate hippies ) and gets the response "Don't worry Windows DUDE, just use the repos man! Repos are sharing and love man!!!". And he does. I like trisquel, but they are a bit... here is a comparison between my linuxMint experience and my Trisquel experience. Look at the screen shots, LOOK! I have used many distros but I have never had that problem before, somebody contact me and tell me what is going on. I also searched kernel and gcc, nothing! If you click on the Philosophy link on the gnu.org website you get the "four essential freedoms" and the second one is quote "to study and change the program in source code form", and that is good because without the compiler that is all you are going to get, source code form.

Let's postulate that the hero of this story manages to go through these issues and the system is usable. He decides to learn a bit more about this thing called GNU/Linux, so of course he goes to sleepychildkungfu's YouTube Channel ( I have literally no shame ), and then Gnash happens. It has sound, no video but fortunately it crashes before he can notice. Gnash actually works nicely with youtube, but it wasn't always like that. But flash games are a bit choppy and there isn't much on that topic on the web that deals with gnash. Will a windows user realize that he isn't using flash and can flash work in midori. How much googling does it take before he comes to the conclusion that he needs to install chrome. And when he does get it that not everything he needs is in the repo, everywhere you go they ask you if you want deb or rpm, are you a debian based distro or a fedora fork. New users may not know what that means, but it's a safe bet that you are going to have some sort "ubuntu users click here" option. But he isn't an ubuntu user, the FSF told him to use Trisquel! You can't promote unknown distros to new users because there is less general support on the web and from software developers. Our hero has been in a boxing mach with his system for 12 hours now. He just wants to put some movie on and watch till he falls asleep. Fortunately at least that works out of the box. Maybe tomorrow he will forget to write GNU in front of Linux in the search field, and discover something awesome that works for him.

My personal view on the subject is that the FSF is doing more harm than good by distancing themselves from good distros. Even if we let some blobs and non free packages in, it will only help with the promotion of FOSS. Our numbers are too small to demand from hardware and software  companies to support free open sourced firmwares and drivers and applications. Make a good operating system, gain popularity and influence and at one point the industry will start respecting your terms of conduct. Till then just worry about the new users and their experience. And make an effort not to dictate how a computer must be used, because you sound like a bunch of fascists!