A quarter century of Free Software

March 17, 2015 by Joshua
in Freedom

Nowadays that GNU/Linux just works and Apple doesn’t, at least from what my friends tell me about their laptops and phones, it’s simple to get a computer running on GNU/Linux. It wasn’t always that way. In 1996, when I first installed GNU/Linux on a computer, it took weeks to figure out how. By contrast, a recent time I installed it on a laptop, the guy with the laptop remarked that it got some hardware working that Windows didn’t.

Business school without using Microsoft products, especially Excel, wasn’t as hard as I expected.

My classmates asked me why I avoided using Microsoft or Apple. I had learned the principles of Free Software in graduate school for physics and found them compelling. I learned them enough to understand them but not to explain them. And people who see copyright and patents as essential as real estate and property rights attached to tangible objects have a hard time seeing them any other way. I found it ironic among business people not to see that copyright and patents are government-granted monopolies. Thomas Jefferson wrote compellingly about the dangers of creating copyrights. Many of those dangers have come to fruition. For one thing, the monopolies granted by copyright and patent law are growing greater all the time.

Anyway, one of the first documents of the Free Software ethos, the GNU Manifesto, came out twenty-five years ago this month. If you haven’t read it, I recommend it. Although, I’d start with Why Software Should Be Free, which I find more accessible. They were pivotal documents for me when I read them a few years after they came out.

I hope you find them as important.

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