why free?

MJ Ray mjr at phonecoop.coop
Mon Jul 18 07:56:14 UTC 2005

Markus <gnufriend at gmx.de> wrote:
> If i understand it, many people argue with the influence of software on our
> life. But other things has also great influence on our life. For example
> before email and instant messaging, the phone was (and maybe is today too)
> the most used way to communicate. But no one has access to the "source code"
> of this communication and can change it, copy it and so on. Is the phone
> therefor a bad thing?

Simply, yes. My GSM phone is pretty good (and on the whole,
better than most others that I have seen so far), but some parts
of its user interface don't fit me, there is one missing feature
which annoys me and there are a couple of easy ways to crash
it. I'd like to fix it, but even if I had someone willing to
do it for a reasonable price, or time to do it myself, I don't
have the source code or any way to upload the new software.

That probably costs me a little time each week and causes some
unhappiness. To use your power drill comparison: if my power
drill could be improved simply, I'd take it to the tool shop
to be fixed. I couldn't do that with a GSM phone when I tried.

One of my previous phones (a Bosch "Coconut") was so closed
that even a fairly common modification wouldn't work on it,
despite what the supplier said (who had been told by Bosch).
The failed attempt cost me some money and a few weeks waiting,
but eventually the supplier admitted a mistake and paid some
compensation. I doubt they paid enough people to seriously hurt
the supplier (because the phone wasn't that popular), but it
seems like that unnecessary closedness hurts companies too.

There are also the "tinfoil hat" concerns from not being able
to study the source: do you know your phone isn't doing a tee
to the black helicopters?

Those are just a few of the more obvious problems with non-free.
Having free software is nearly always better than not, in all
fields. It gives you more options. As a consumer or a business,
more options often means more flexibility and safety.

MJ Ray (slef), K. Lynn, England, email see http://mjr.towers.org.uk/

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