Like many I'm sure, I'd heard a little of the Free Software Foundation - their petitions to the US Govt recently (and a public march if I remember correctly), brought a bit of a laugh. But I recently stumbled upon a new campaign being run by the FSF, entitled the "Windows 7 Sins"... you guessed it - timed around the release of the launch of Win7. Now granted, the full title of the campaign is "Windows 7 Sins: The case against Microsoft and proprietary software", but given that noone else even gets a mention in either the body of their home page, nor in the letter sent to 499 of the Fortune 500 companies - MS being that unsent-to member of that list - we might as well ignore that last part of the title.
Now don't get me wrong - I'm all for the growth of the FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) community. Hell, I've been a Firefox user since around version 0.7, and use a number of fine open-source apps and utilities on a day-to-day, or regular basis. I'm also all for Linux stepping up as a stronger player for those outside the so-called "geek" community - that's not to say there aren't some growing contenders, but simply an acknowledgment of the fact that it is early days on that front.
But when I come across the kind of hyperbole being pitched in this latest effort by the FSF, my eyebrows are automatically raised.
In their campaign "war howl", they accuse MS of committing 7 cardinal sins against the FOSS community, as follows:
- Poisoning education
Isn't the purpose of our education system to prepare our students for the real world - including giving them the means to use the tools they will likely encounter? How many businesses are using Linux, OO or GIMP? Businesses are more likely to use Macs than Linux boxes, thus many schools teach both
- Invading privacy
Windows Genuine Advantage checks only to validate a genuine copy of Windows
- Monopoly behavior
No-one is forced to use have Windows - or any other MS product - on their computer, and HP/DELL both offer OS-free PC options
XP reaches end of support period in 2012 - that's 12yrs of support! Last time I checked, Office XP and Office 2003 were also both supported. How many open-source project versions get such lengthy support? And how are users "forced" to upgrade within that period?
- Abusing standards
And exactly what standards does OO follow?
- Enforcing Digital Restrictions Management (DRM)
Last time I checked, it was the various arms of the entertainment industry which had pressured both MS and Apple to support Digital Rights Management!
- Threatening user security
This one just gets so tired, it's not even worth picking apart
A full outline as to how the FSF is defining these "sins", as related to Microsoft, they can be found here. You can make up your own mind as to the legitimacy of the claims made.
Now I'm not sticking a halo on the head of Microsoft, but come on. This smacks more of the school-yard tantrum thrown because no-one wants to play with them; rather than a legitimate effort on FSF's part. Why is it seen as acceptable to attack the opposition rather than promoting a quality range of their own products. Are they that insecure?
One of my biggest criticisms of the FOSS community as a whole comes down to this: an almost complete lack of true innovation. The emphasis has long been on providing "alternatives" to proprietary software, rather than creating something truly new. Even the rumour-mill surrounding Google's Chrome OS, suggests a package of alternatives, without any real new ideas. Combine that with this latest campaign, and one has to ask - is the FSF's carry-on doing more to harm the open-source community than actually helping it? Is this latest campaign more likely to encourage large enterprise to avoid open-source software, rather than enacting any form of adoption?
What are your thoughts on the matter?