why free?

Frank Heckenbach frank at g-n-u.de
Wed Jul 20 18:11:57 UTC 2005

Markus wrote:

> Or people who just want a better typewriter, he buy a PC with windows and MS
> Office
> or StarOffice and write his letter.

Interesting comparison. When you use a plain typewriter (mechanical
or otherwise), you assume that what you type on it can be read by
anyone (who you decide to give it to). That's a basic assumption
that most people don't even think about because it's so obvious. So
naturally they have the same expectation of "computer typewriters",
i.e. word processors. And at first glance this appears to be the
case. Only later, they might realize that the documents they wrote,
cannot be read by others who use different software, or sometimes
actually only another version of the same software.

So if you want to think about your word-processor as a typewrite, be
sure to use one that creates files that everybody can read. Or
otherwise, print everything you type, remove the files, and send
printed copies by snail mail. Welcome back to the old days ...

And I don't even want to start about hidden, sometimes dangerous,
content stored in proprietary files. Someone with the typewriter
comparison in mind wouldn't even think of this possibility, but it's
very real ...

> Why sould he switch to GNU/Linux and
> maybe have
> problems to print because of a missing or bad printing driver or have
> problems to
> open and edit the files from the fellows. For him the PC is just a tool,
> like the old
> mechanically typewriter. It does it job and thats all he want. Is this bad?

If he's not 100% sure he won't ever give the files created to
someone else. Because if he does, he'd become just one of those
fellows you mention that cause problems to others.

And if he's not 100% sure he won't ever create other files he might
give to someone else, it's at least a dangerous trap. Because then
he might not be willing to learn to use another program that doesn't
cause such bad behaviour. (That's what we see from proprietary
software users very often.)

So, for just about anyone, the answer is, yes, this is a bad thing.


Frank Heckenbach, frank at g-n-u.de
GnuPG and PGP keys: http://fjf.gnu.de/plan (7977168E)

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