everything wrong with free software

 "obedience breeds foolishness"

### fig-philosophy other articles: => the-fsf-doesnt-care.html the-fsf-doesnt-care => how-to-deal-with-your-raspberry-spy.html how-to-deal-with-your-raspberry-spy *originally posted:* mar 2021 *minor fixes:* apr 2021 the fig philosophy isnt so much written and followed, as observed and written. in other words, these do not need to be rules to follow. and this philosophy, if it even should be called that, doesnt exclude other philosophies. but there are things i have done for a long time, that seem to be part of my learning and working process. if we note some of these things, we could call them "the fig philosophy". the first characteristic would be a natural curiosity-- wanting to understand how things work. a second could be a desire to make things easier or simplify them when possible. a third could be the desire for sharing. i hate for old hardware to go to waste, so i enjoy removing unnecessary items from installations (including windows itself) and when a laptop screen is broken i just remove it and use it as a small desktop. taking things and separating them into parts, literally and figuratively is a great way to learn about them. with that said, i prefer to do this with software. when you get a windows machine, it isnt yours. its not just that the software isnt free, thats significant of course-- but the path of windows over the years is to start by giving microsoft control, then to give them more and more as time goes on. updates were never your friend in windows. sure, you may need them for security purposes, but they would sneak in other bugs and break things. it used to be possible to have complete control over when updates ran, but eventually microsoft would stop supporting your version of the platform, and then what? i liked to replace more and more windows components with free ones. why didnt i just install a free operating system? eventually i did, but at first i was tinkering with them, and i wasnt ready to get one working. i removed my last copy of windows in 2007. by then i had found ways to do all my tasks without windows, but i had also changed the way i do some of those tasks. if possible, i recommend getting a machine just to tinker with. if you dont like playing with hardware, at least wipe the drive so you can put a different os on it. a lot of the things i used to do with windows, it has gotten more aggressive about making changes for you and controlling what changes you can make. i already had to disable various services (all those years ago) to stop windows from replacing files i had deleted, and i already had to go to "safe mode" to delete some of them in the first place, but that was rudimentary compared to what they have now. windows is a surveillance platform, not an operating system. without taking control of your software, it will always try to tell you what to do and how to do it. sadly, the most common response to this is for people to simply comply with the softwares demands. this means if a company decides they want you to do something differently, you just do it because they want you to. thats an alien concept to me, i always had some degree of control over my computer. when people try to take that away, tempting me with new features, i think its the weirdest and most offensive thing. its my computer-- not theirs. they can install that crap on their own computer. but i already liked to understand things on a more than superficial level (sometimes its pretty superficial, but still a step forward) before i got into computers, and starting with my computing at a less superficial level made me want to understand (and sometimes remove) layers that other people put on top of that. windows originally ran on top of dos-- it was a separate product. so you used dos, you had the option of installing and using windows on top of that, and if you didnt like it you just deleted windows or used something else (another shell program) instead. so there was no mystery about what was running under windows-- it was right there in front of you. but later, they worked to try to fuse the two together. its funny, because the most extreme example of this is the mac. graphical by default, people told me. years later i learned the key combination to boot to "single user mode" which is a text-based, bsd-based environment where you run as the root (top level) account. macos does a great job of hiding this, but not to the point where you cant read about it and try it yourself. be careful though, as with dos or a free operating system, you can tell it to delete your entire system from there. when you have a second system (like an old one nobody wants anymore) to tinker with, its not such a big deal to mess around and try things. lets say you accidentally delete everything. alright, so before every computer came with an operating system pre-installed, putting an operating system on your computer wasnt meant to be prohibitively difficult. you would use a "boot floppy" or a cd, these days you would probably use a usb drive, and it would load the installer and you just go through a few questions, then it installs the operating system for you. you remove the floppy, cd or usb, and restart with your new os. this can often be a 15 minute task, sometimes even for a first-timer. you have nothing on the computer, so you generally cant mess it up. oh, and "dual booting" is worth the trouble sometimes, but it typically isnt. dont even worry about it, just keep it simple and replace the entire system. when it only takes 15 minutes to put a new system on your experimental machine, and you make copies of your important files (making copies of important files is one of the most important computer skills to have) to other devices or media, you shouldnt be afraid to try crazy things like removing the graphical shell or seeing how many components you can move or remove to prove what does or doesnt really depend on them. this becomes even more useful later on, when big companies try to take over free software. i didnt go to school to learn how to do this-- i learned it by trying things. if youre afraid to try things like that, theres a good reason for it-- spreading fear of tinkering with your computer keeps software corporations in control, because theyre in the business of making things that hold your hand-- and then leading you where they want you to go. its a heck of a feeling to be able to say "no, thats alright-- YOU go, ill stay here and do what i want or need to do". its way better than having windows or apple come along and say "pack your things, we leave tomorrow". "where are we going?" "just shut up and start packing". seriously, thats okay-- just tell them to run along. i know that a lot of people think "thats not me, im not a computer person, i cant do that stuff". but the thing is, it was a lot easier at one point. the things that people do to work around the restrictions and bad designs they are pushed into dealing with-- some of those workarounds add up to being more complicated than taking control. this is all the more reason why instead of just switching cold turkey to something else, you have a machine you can experiment with. ive spent time doing computer stuff with the homeless and the poor, and ive also heard the argument that two computers (or taking control of your computing) is somehow elitist. when i talk about getting a second computer to play with, im not talking about going to a store and forking over lots of money for a new machine. its closer to what im saying that youre going to play with someone elses rubbish. but if you have the money for that sort of thing, its a good investment. i hate seeing old hardware go to waste, and the stuff people hold onto but no longer use, theyre often happy to part with it-- especially if you know how to wipe their personal and private data from the drive. i play with rubbish machines, i setup rubbish machines to work like newer ones, i used to even give them away to people who were having windows problems. "im having trouble with my computer". "alright, i have one you can borrow if you want. if you like it, you can keep it". you cant just give someone a used computer, they wont want it. you cant just loan someone a used computer, they will worry. so you loan it to them and tell them they can keep it if they want. as long as they can trust you not to put something bad on their computer, this arrangement works. and people will say "you cant just give a computer to the homeless. what are they going to do with it?"-- ive known lots of homeless and formerly homeless people with computers actually, and i did know a homeless guy who i gave a computer to. he was no computer expert, but my first wife got that computer for somewhere between 10 and 20 dollars. the fact that it didnt have windows on it didnt matter-- it still got online, it still had a web browser. it still demonstrated the power of not relying on windows. of course when you try to give free non-windows computers to people, microsoft comes along and says "hey! we are making some cheaper machines so people can buy them new!" yeah, no thanks guys, this isnt just about the price. its about giving people control of their computing. was that machine i gave going to take control away from the person i gave it to? no, there was nothing on it that was designed to do that. at least, not anymore. one of the things i warn free software users about (and im not the only person to talk about this) is this notion of "free in license only". windows and apple take control by putting a license on their software that says "you need our permission to make certain changes, or to share this software with other people-- and we wont give you the source code to help you make substantial changes". and the free software movement responds, by trying to help people use only software with a free license. actually, free software is about putting people in control of their computing. freely-licensed software is a key part of that, but saying its just about the license leads people to think (and even argue) that freely-licensed software cant be redesigned to take something away from the user again. the arguments people make about this sometimes are a bit like saying its not cold outside, because you can put a coat on. alright, the coat helps-- but it doesnt change the weather. and if you dont actually have a coat, its not going to help that a coat makes you warmer. coats are still incredibly important things, but companies sabotaging freely-licensed source code isnt a non-problem just because the license lets you (slowly) undo their sabotage! "free in license only" is a response and a protest to people who assume that a free license completely prevents abuse from big companies deliberately redesigning (taking over) major projects to create or at least simulate "user lock-in" and facilitate other forms of abuse, such as spying on the user. sure, this goes against everything free software used to stand for. but they couldnt do it without shifting the narrative about what free software really stands for. thats why there is a very small, but growing movement of people who stand against this takeover-- and to free the software once again. but even if you dont know anything about that, you can still get a good start by finding out what true computer literacy is-- and then working to obtain it if you dont have it already. maybe youre "not a computer person". alright, so there are two ways to fix that. one is to pile endless layers of abstraction and silly nonsense on top of the core of your system. thats the typical approach-- it has mixed merits and it costs more. the other is to simplify a bit-- and eventually replace some of the nonsense with things that-- to be honest, make more sense. its too much of a shock for some people to do that all at once. thats why for me, simplifying (not endlessly abtracting and chasing what amounts to fashion trends) computing is a process, not a product. and per the desire to share, i generally enjoy helping people out with that process. many of the computers i gave away were free to me (you just have to learn how to ask people for them) and all of them were free to the people i gave them to. its one foot in front of the other, like always. only now its in a direction away from having companies use your computer as some kind of e-leash, and towards having a computer that does what you want instead. and thats an introduction i suppose, to my philosophy. i didnt say im the first to come up with these ideas, but this is how they fit together in what i do. if i add another chapter here, what should it be? in school, they make you learn history though most teachers dont do much to make you fall in love with the subject. they tell you its important, but they often cant tell you why. i discovered the importance of history much later on. history is an extraordinary window into the present. imagine if you could travel, sci-fi-like, to a different place in time and space. what would you learn? and how would it help you understand the world you live in? with computing, and often politics, being able to go back and compare other times to the present sheds light on so many things we take for granted. and i dont just mean that we are privileged to live at this time-- im not exactly optimistic about the time we live in, nor do i prefer the 1800s really. but just being able to make the comparison between various pasts and the present can teach us so much about our assumptions, things we take for granted as givens-- and they arent givens. they arent simply "the way things are" at all. and this is one of the many valuable lessons that history shows us-- not just about the way things were, but the way they are now. some things have improved since i started using computers, and others have gotten worse. many of these things helped form the philosophy i have now. so for a better understanding of it, here is: => some-computer-history.html some-computer-history => https://wrongwithfreesw.neocities.org