Too Busy For Words - the PaulWay Blog

Thu 6th Apr, 2006

What does 'Free' mean, again?

Pascal Klein notes the mixed reception to Linux from a bystander. I think you're right, Pascal, on the various reasons why 'free software' sounds like 'free phone' or 'free dinner' to most people. Indeed, 'free software' does still mean that there are some hidden terms and conditions: you have to be moderately competent at knowing about computer hardware and software, you have to know how to get help, and you have to be prepared to find out the hard way sometimes. I like to compare it to riding a bike: it may require a bit of training and you need a bit more safety equipment than before, but you can do a lot more and things that were long and tedious are now quick and fun.

(As an aside, I tend to play on people's paranoia at the point where they say "but can it save in Word format?" and so forth. I ask them if they trust Microsoft to always allow you to open your documents, and if they think it's possible that they would do something that means that you'd have to pay them more money to continue working. Or ask them if they like DVD Region encoding. This segues nicely into the freedom to access your stuff, when you want, how you want, which is what people want more than the flashy interface or noble principles or buzzwords.)

Pascal's comment on political parties delivering on their promises is also great food for thought. One thing that is determinedly ignored by the USA, Australia and Great Britain (und so weiter) is that the 'terrorists' are not doing their terrible deeds because they hate Democracy. They're doing it because they think that this is their way of highlighting their cause: in Osama bin Laden's case, it's the cause of a people that have been continually bashed to and fro by the USA and Israel. In my opinion, it's like fucking for virginity (to use the phrase), but I can understand the sentiment.

A long time ago, a guy who I would no longer call a friend was criticising the Aboriginal people in a community he'd heard of. They'd trashed the cars they'd been given, their houses were pigsties, and their children were badly clothed, underfed and uneducated. "They don't deserve any help at all!", this redneck declaimed. I tried to point out that all these 'gifts' may have been useless to them, or (worse) been tied to doing what the Government wanted; their rejection was the only form of social protest these people had, since they were in the middle of nowhere. This idea didn't get through, as you can imagine.

The Government, aided and abetted by the media, is happy portraying all Muslims as raving fanatics who want to convert everyone to Islam or death. It does so for the same reason that it calls people 'intellectuals'; 'the cafe latte set'; 'the chattering classes': to make us call us 'us' and them 'them'. The fact that there are raving fanatics who want the above dichotomy doesn't help set the balance straight. I'd say that any Government that tells you 'x' is 'evil' is as evil as they claim 'x' to be.

I promise not to rant on Politics so much any more...

(How appropriate: "Walking On Sunshine" by Katrina And The Waves just started playing on XMMS...)

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