FSF takes on Windows 7

The FSF (Free Software Foundation) has never liked proprietary software, but for most of its history, it's focused on singing the praises of free software, and, with some distaste, its near-twin, open-source software. Not anymore. These days, the FSF is spending its time attacking proprietary software, like it did today, August 26th, when it went after Windows 7 in its new Windows 7 Sins: The case against Microsoft and proprietary software.

The seven deadly sins are, according to the FSF, the "seven major areas where proprietary software in general and Microsoft Windows in particular hurt all computer users: invading privacy, poisoning education, locking users in, abusing standards, leveraging monopolistic behavior, enforcing DRM (Digital Restrictions Management), and threatening user security."

Beside the Web site, and a public demonstration at the Boston Common, the FSF elaborated on these points in a letter to the leaders of the Fortune 500 companies. Well, actually, 499 CEOs — as the FSF notes on the site, "We didn't think Microsoft would listen."

Yeah. I think that's a safe bet.

In a statement, FSF executive director Peter Brown said, "Free software is about freedom, not price. Our growing dependence on computers and software requires our society to reevaluate its obsession with proprietary software that spies on citizens' activities and limits their freedom to be in control of their computing. There is free software available right now for any activity you or your business needs, and it is better in the most important aspect — it respects your freedom."

Instead, the FSF suggest that companies should "adopt free software such as the GNU/Linux operating system and the office productivity suite OpenOffice.org." The FSF is also asking for your donations, to help them get the word out about Windows 7 and other proprietary software.

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FSF campaigns manager Matt Lee added, "With windows7sins.org, we hope to make businesses and computer users aware of the growing dangers of proprietary software from both Microsoft and other companies such as Apple and Adobe. With the release of Microsoft's updated operating system, business leaders have the opportunity to escape to freedom and join a growing list of leaders who understand that sinking money and time into proprietary software is a dead-end inconsistent with their best interests.."

You might think I'd be saying "Right on! Go for it!" right now. You'd be wrong. It's not that I don't agree with the FSF on most of Windows 7's sins — I do. I spend many of my work hours popping proprietary software balloons myself in my stories. I'm just not sure that a campaign of this sort is an effective way to get people to avoid proprietary software. I'm afraid the only people who will read these letters or visit the Windows 7 Sins Web site are people who are already convinced that Linux and free software is great and that Windows is the devil's operating system.

The FSF might have been better off with a campaign spelling out why free and open-source software is better, rather than one focusing on why Windows 7 and proprietary software is bad. Leave punching on Microsoft, et al, to writers like me. What works in a small column or blog post may not work as a far bigger and more far-reaching campaign.

Still, I hope I'm wrong. I hope at the least that this campaign will cause some IT decision-makers to give a second thought to free and open-source alternatives when it comes time to consider moving away from Windows XP and Office 2007 to Windows 7 and Office 2010.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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