everything wrong with free software

 "free as in speech"

### the-end-of-the-free-software-era---chapter-02---controlling-your-computing *originally posted:* sep 2022 in the early 1980s, freedom was a tan-coloured plastic slab that featured several cables and dark brown keys. i never owned a commodore 64, but i did learn to code in basic on a pc. the c64 connected to cables for power, video output, and possibly a floppy drive or low-speed modem for communicating with the world outside your home. when you switched it on, it would load a basic interpreter from a rom chip. this was typical for the 8-bit machines of the era. if you had a floppy drive, you could save and load programs with it-- you could even purchase games made for the c64, which were typically more elaborate than something you would want to type in. there were magazines featuring simpler programs to type in and try out. nobody could stop you from changing them, though they did not typically come with a license that allowed free redistribution. the machine im typing this on is also a plastic slab covered in dark-coloured keys: flat, with a space for a trackpad (which is missing; it was beginning to be an annoyance so i simply removed it). there are four cables: for the mouse, monitor, ethernet and power. (in the years since this chapter was first written, i have added a keyboard). i didnt buy the computer this way; its a laptop, it had a screen attached. i used it with the screen until that didnt suit my purposes anymore; when i get tired of a folding screen (or if it breaks) i may just remove it as well. hence the c64-like form factor. ideally, software should work this way as well; if you really dont like a feature, you should just be able to remove it. the machine is less portable now (at least while in use) but when i put it in front of a larger screen, i dont have to worry about folding the laptop screen out or putting it somewhere that isnt in the way. its closer to what i want, rather than what the designers wanted. the designers might explain that i have other options that make more sense to them; i could put it off to the side and use an external keyboard. and thats nice, but i prefer this keyboard to my external, otherwise i would be using that. (i still prefer it to the only external i had when i first wrote this, and i am still happy with the modified form factor). i am well aware that there were other options than removing the screen. and ive actually used several of those options previously, out of not wanting to go to the extra trouble. but the thing is, this is my computer. the designers dont own it or have to use it-- i do. and my obligation regarding how to use my computer is to myself, not to them. far too much software is written around the idea that the designers know best. which is funny, because most of us have never even met. how do they know best, then? by assuming. and by their own assumptions, they do know best. the user deserves a reasonable way to address and mitigate the fact that sometimes, those assumptions are wrong. sadly, these arrogant "developers know best" types tend towards not providing a reasonable way to mitigate the faults of their own assumptions (i am grateful to developers that do a better job than this). this sort of attitude has led to an increasing shift from more easily-modified software to more entrenched software, and it affects freedoms 1 and 3 both in theory and in practice. the free software movement is painfully slow to recognise this. the gnew project clearly recognised it, so do a number of advocates (including some developers). if i were to design this machine for someone like myself, i would have made the screen easier to remove and reattach. you would be able to get the screen in a plastic case, rather than one designed to go into a plastic case; it would have a thin cable on the outside, and an external connector (like a desktop monitor)-- you would be able to remove the hinges without opening the rest of the laptop. most laptops wouldnt be made that way though, because it would add to the cost (of a unit) and people would want to save the difference. instead, they pay a lot more to fix it if it breaks; this leads to increased sales, an increased cost for someone to operate a computer long term, and it almost certainly increases e-waste. at any rate, i managed to detach the screen and get the thing back together. sometimes free software works this way; lately it doesnt work that way often enough. they do make a few portables that have detachable screens, but the screen isnt really the part that detaches-- what it really disconnects is the keyboard. the screen is still attached to the part that does the computing; this converts it to a tablet, but (unlike the machine im using) all the parts that do the computing are packed too tightly together. besides, i got this thing because nobody wanted it anymore, and they didnt even want to bother to sell it online. i got it for less than $100. if i want to turn this machine on and have it do anything, theres no chip with basic on it-- it needs an operating system. at the very least, i want to be able to type things and save files-- i usually want a machine to able to get on a network as well. what i dont want is windows, which it came with. i removed that in the first 30 minutes i owned the thing. windows and macos are not yours-- you dont control updates, microsoft and apple do. you cant copy and share them, you cant make changes and share the modified version either. a computer running windows is a computer that microsoft has more ownership of than the person who bought the computer; so if you want your computer to really be yours, you first have to remove the stuff that microsoft put there. and that means you need to be able to install different software in its place. not everybody feels ready to do this, and it doesnt always work the way you hope. even before i installed anything, i was running a different os from a usb stick-- this gave me some idea of what it would be like to install something other than windows. we went from running basic from a chip to booting a completely different os from a chip-- but a chip in a fob that you can attach to your housekeys. we also want equipment that we are free to design, modify and share, although manufacturing costs and industry processes still make this mostly prohibitive. we at least want our software to be free, and for a while, that was possible. we want software to be free again someday, so lets talk about what made it free and what made it less free. for starters, lets talk about the role that education plays in making you less free. license: 0-clause bsd ``` # 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022 # # Permission to use, copy, modify, and/or distribute this software for any # purpose with or without fee is hereby granted. # # THE SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED "AS IS" AND THE AUTHOR DISCLAIMS ALL WARRANTIES # WITH REGARD TO THIS SOFTWARE INCLUDING ALL IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF # MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE AUTHOR BE LIABLE FOR # ANY SPECIAL, DIRECT, INDIRECT, OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES OR ANY DAMAGES # WHATSOEVER RESULTING FROM LOSS OF USE, DATA OR PROFITS, WHETHER IN AN # ACTION OF CONTRACT, NEGLIGENCE OR OTHER TORTIOUS ACTION, ARISING OUT OF # OR IN CONNECTION WITH THE USE OR PERFORMANCE OF THIS SOFTWARE. ``` => https://wrongwithfreesw.neocities.org