Free as in Freedom

I have noticed that my blog doesn’t contain any detailed description about my view on Free Software, so for those people who come to my blog, and think it’s just another thing that computer oriented people like to use, I would like to explain my vision about that in a few words. Beside the philosophical issue about Free Software being one of the greatest revolutionary ideas in the computer industry, there is a detailed description available on Free Software Foundation website which will tell you why Free Software is good for your freedom. For example, have you ever thought about some modern electronic devices which are available today on the market, what they are capable of ? Let’s take a look at mobile phones. They are small, fit into every pocket, we always carry them around and they can be used for various things. They work as a photo camera, have an integrated GPS system and you can communicate with them. In order to operate successfully they usually require some kind of proprietary (non-free) software. For example, one of those devices is an Iphone. Do you really think that you can control your Iphone or can the Iphone be used as a surveillance tool in order to control you on demand ? First of all, you don’t know how the software on the phone works, because it’s proprietary, so only designers at Apple know what has been integrated into that code, the code is not revealed to the public. It is not such a problem to turn your device into a remote spying machine if someone needs that, all the tools and software are already there to make it work. For the demonstration there is a “Where am I ?” applet on the right side of my blog, which reveals my current location captured from the mobile phone and which gets updated when I move around. Here is the screenshot of the tracking log that was recorded by the phone company, when I was walking around. It managed to record GPS coordinates, even when my phone was in my jacket’s pocket. Even that in theory it has the integrated software button to shut down the tracking mode, can you really trust that function, and how can you be sure that the data isn’t being transmitted anymore through it and being recorded on phone company’s servers ? Secondly most of the hardware and software today on personal computers and tablets is proprietary. Microsoft, Apple, even instances of GNU/Linux distributions include proprietary code. There isn’t a single notebook on the market which would use exclusively Free hardware. Computers which have proprietary hardware and software on them could be used for remote surveillance, the same way as your Iphone can be. Whoever has access to that, could view and download your data from the device without you realising it at all. Can you imagine the world where people would have access to Free technology designs, which would use exclusively Free software, where different people could always look at it’s source code and fix any “evil” code in them ? That is why you should strive and use and support ONLY the Free Software distributions and campaigns for your software freedom from organisations like the Free Software Foundation. Or at least for ethical reasons you should support/donate to these campaigns, for your and everyone else’s freedom. I recommend reading a great book “Free as in Freedom” about Richard M. Stallman and his crusade for Software Freedom. Personally I would also like to add that it was a great honour for me that I had the chance to speak a few words with him last year when he had a lecture in Ljubljana.

Author: Jan Prunk

Jan Prunk, Free software / GNU Linux enthusiast from Slovenia.

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