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Why Free Software

1. Why to use free software instead of proprietary software?

2. Why is the copyright 'protection' useless and dangerous?

3. Why is a patent useless and dangerous?

1. Why to use free software instead of proprietary software?

1.1. Knowledge availability

The knowledge used in the algorithm is public and not restricted to a few person. Anyone has the right to know how is possible to make something.

1.2. No secret

When something is done, it's public. It's accessible for all people which are interested in.

In the proprietary software, informations are hidden and only a few number of person know what really happens, the rest can just believe what is told.

1.3. Can be used for any purpose

You have the right to use the tools for whatever you want. You don't have to pay more if you use a tool for a purpose instead of on other.

1.4. Can be studied

You have the right to read and study the code. If you are interessted in, you can browse the code and may be learn something new.

In the proprietary software, you can only read the HEX code, if you are good enough (Einstein wouldn't pass such a test!)

1.5. Can be modified

You have the right to modify the tools for your need. If people which has released the software doesn't have time or the wish to adapt it for your needs, you can do it (or someone other for you).

In the proprietary software, you can just search an other equivalent tool (if it exists and paying a second time) and hope it doesn't have other kind of limitations.

1.6. Can be distributed

You have the right to copy it, sell or freely distribute it.

If you have a proprietary software, you doesn't have the right to distribute it, to make a backup for your self and even to install it on more machines. In fact, in such a case, you have paid but you are not the proprietary of the software; you are just the proprietary of a license!!!

1.7. Is well documented

The Free Software is equipped with a very big amount of documentation and howtos. You can find documents which can be understood by anyone until very very detailed documents for experts only. You have the choice!

You can easily access them via internet. The most important are already installed into the system self.

Proprietary software has just a user handbook, with no technical (or just very simple) explanations. If you want to learn something about the functioning of a programm, you can't.

1.8. Follow up the standards

Generally, the Free Software follows the standards and doesn't introduce "own" standards.

This doesn't happen in the proprietary software. See Java example. It has been introduced to write the code only once and compile it for more platforms. Micro$oft has introduced undocumented features that only they support, destroying the sense of Java.

1.9. No spyware, adware, troian, backdoor, ...

Since you have the possibility to read the source code, malicious code (e.g.: spyware, troian, ...) can be easily found and removed.

In the proprietary software, often, a lot of user datas are collected and sent to some. For example, Windows XP collects informations about installed programms and send them to Micro$oft as soon as the PC is connected to internet. There are other programms which show you indesired publicity (adware) or more worse open hidden ports to who has written the software (backdoor).

1.10. Strength in the users

In the Free Software, the strength is in the users. They have the possibility to affect the development of a programm.

In the proprietary software, this strength is in the hand of the manufacturer and it will develop the software only in the way he can make more money.

1.11. No dependence

In the Free Software, you are not dependent on a single manufacturer. If you are not agree with a manufacturer politic, you can found an other manufacturer offering similar products.

On the contrary, if you have the same problem in the proprietary software, you are so dependent on the manufacturer that you can't easily abandon him and this last can do with you what he want.

An example. You buy the version 1.0 of a tool. How in any software, some bug are found. Instead of fixing them in the version 1.0, the manufacturer releases version 2.0 with the bugfixes. You have to pay a second time if you want the corrected version. Logically, new bugs will be introduced in version 2.0, so that you will be permanently dependent on the manufacturer. A known example is Windows 98 that was, or better, should be the bugfixes of Windows 95. Such things happens regularly with a lot of proprietary software.

1.12. User friendly

The free software has become user friendly. You must not be a hacker to install and use it. Try SuSE or Mandrake, you will be surprised about their semplicity!

In the last time, also Debian is becoming more user friendly. If you already have a little bit of GNU/Linux experience, try it. It's much more easier if you want to install/deinstall programms. Also the system upgrade works very but very good!

1.13. Free (like free beer)

There is a very large offert of software you can download without paying and it's all legal!

Logically, there are also free software you have to pay for them, but for the most private usage you can find all what you need without have to pay one cent!

1.14. Security

The security holes are not hidden but published, so that a lot of people can help with the bugfixes. As soon as a fix is available, it can be installed and it's not necessary to wait more time (with risk!) untile there are enough fixes to release a "Service pack".

1.15. Stable and fast

When right configured, it's stable and fast. If you don't have enough experience to configure it, choose an easy distribution. People with more experience as you has already done it for you.

1.16. No DRM

Microsoft is trying to introduce DRM (Digital Rights Management), a new way to control what software you can or not run on your PC.

It first tried it with Palladium, but the complaints have been enough to induce Microsoft trying an other way to rich the same purpose: NGSCB (Next Generation Secure Computing Base).

For more info, see http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/users/rja14/tcpa-faq.html.

In the Free Software, there aren't such mechanisms.

1.17. You can contribute to improving it

Do you habe a lot of money? Do you have a high social status? Do you have a pretty face? None of that helps. To compete for a place in the Free Software world, you need a PC, an Internet connection and a brain. You will judged on your ideas, your code and your other contributions. Anyone can play.

2. Why is the copyright 'protection' useless and dangerous?

2.1. Breaks the knowledge

Normally, proprietary software is protected by copyright. Refere you to the above chapters for more info about why is this bad.

2.2. Protects the wrong person

People is induced to think that the copyright protect the author of a piece. The problem is that the authors self, due the current system of the market, doesn't have enough power to put their piece on the market. Therefore, they address to producer that buy theirs rights and pay a little but very little part of the proceeds to the author.

This means, the copyright protects and provides more money and power to the already rich and powerful companies and deprive the real creator of the piece from its profit.

In the software world, the authors are the developers and they doesn't have any right about the code written by them self, because this is propriety of the big houses where they work.

2.3. A very meaningful example

No comment. Read this.

Homepage: http://www.unhappybirthday.com

2.4. The Illustrated Story of Copyright

A detailed description about the story of the copyright, written by Edward Samuels.

Homepage: http://www.edwardsamuels.com/illustratedstory

2.5. Is anticompetitive

Copyright can be used to threaten of lawyers actions (see SCO). This is anticompetitive and can turn out from the market the small and medium enterprises, independent developers, Free Software and Open Source software. Do you think we can have good software if only a few enterprises have the full controll of the development? See what has happened with the various Micro$oft Windows OS.

3. Why is a patent useless and dangerous?

3.1. Rewards the wrong person

Patents are expensive and only who already has enough money can pay for them. This means all the big houses!

If someone has a good idea and not enough money (this is normally the case), his invention will be easily bought by a big manufacturer which will pay for the correspondent patent and will own the right to use the idea.

3.2. Breaks the invention

The big houses have a lot of patents that are used, but they have also a lot of unused. In this way, they can use these last to obstruct the competitors. You will understand how is this bad for the umanity knowledge and progress.

Emidio Planamente

Last modified on 2005-07-21