The HeliOS Project is now.....

The HeliOS Project is now.....
Same mission, same folks...just a different name

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Words Are Important...


It's a game some of us play.

Some of us better than others and some do it very well...

Most times it is to gain an advantage.

Microsoft plays the game better than anyone in the bid'ness.

So comes a time when we have to be reminded of what is actually important and what is fluff.

It can make a huge difference.

Thomas Holbrook of The NIXED Report has written an essay...a Manifesto if you will that reminds us of just what we have...

And what is at stake.

With his permission, I have published his piece here. I sincerely want you to read it...

I will, as often as I need to in order to remind myself just how important words can be.

Thomas, the floor is yours.

The Freedomware Project Manifesto

Thomas Holbrook II

Steven Levy knew who the heroes were. In the 1950's, the Tech Model Railroad Club would transition from working on model trains to writing software for computers. Oh how they hated IBM and all of their restrictions. Can you believe that back then, one had to actually ask for permission to use one of their computers? The punch card system was horrible! It would take way too much time just to find out if the program worked correctly or needed to be fixed.

Today, saving information to storage is taken for granted. Whether it's the hard drive or some other medium, one never has to wait very long for the results of their labor. Programs can be debugged instantly, and documents can be revised with ease. Games can be played and the world wide web can be surfed for hours on end. The entertainment possibilities seem to be endless. However, it is the large media corporations that often try to dictate to the user how they are authorized to enjoy music and movies.

In addition, large software corporations often inhibit sharing of ideas by not allowing the user to share the software with other people. Software patents exist in order to prevent individuals from outdoing the large organizations who wish to retain that “competitive edge.” Having the source code was out of the question, and woe be unto those who shared copies with other people, despite the fact that the software in question was vastly overpriced. This is why organizations such as the Free Software Foundation and the Open Source Initiative exists.

Richard Matthew Stallman began the free software movement in an attempt to bring control of computers back to the user. He began work on GNU (GNU's Not Unix), a clone of Unix, a well known operating system that has survived to this day. Linus Torvalds, in an attempt to have the same power at home that Sun workstations provided him at the university, began working on Linux, an operating system kernel. Eventually, software from the GNU project was combined with the Linux kernel to produce a full fledged operating system. Control was brought back to the user, or so it appeared.

Courts in the United States ruled that citizens were not allowed to watch a DVD on a computer that used the Linux kernel. The movie industry wanted to dictate to everyone else when, where, and how their films could be enjoyed. It wasn't about money, but control. People who encoded their music in MP3 format were faced with patent fees. Without a kernel, there is no operating system, so by proxy, Microsoft is attempting to litigate Linux out of existence, while advocates are encouraging civil disobedience by using it anyway.

While the rest of the world is often free to ignore artificial restrictions set forth by the corporate multimedia entities, it will not remain that way forever without constant vigilance. Even nations such as Australia can be influenced to accept DMCA-like restrictions with enough lobbying and political gifts. For every DVD Jon who breaks the locks on movie discs, there shall be another Blu Ray that will rise up to take its place. For every helios, there shall be a Steve Ballmer. For every hero who does good deeds, there will be a corporate entity who sees such deeds as a threat to their control of the masses.

Yes, Steven Levy knew heroes. Many of them pioneered an entire industry. A great deal of them were opposed to the behavior of not allowing other people to look at and modify the source code. The Stallmans, Gospers, Greenblatts, and the Wozniaks of the world enjoyed tweaking things until they were better than they were yesterday. To the likes of Torvalds and others, it was about enjoying the development of software. That enjoyment is under threat now by the major institutions who want to control the thoughts and speech of others.

Yet “open source” does not really imply liberty, now does it? The availability of source code is emphasized. People are often allowed to share software under such licenses (but not always). The phrase “free software” comes closer, but there are too many connotations to the word “free.” Monetary cost is often applied to said word. Freeware is a term that implies that the software costs no money to obtain, but the source code is not always available. It's obvious that the word “freedom” needs to be a part of the equation.

This is why freedomware is a more important phrase. This term implies liberty and does not confuse people into thinking that one can not charge money for making copies available (they can give them away gratis if they so wish). So what is freedomware and what does it mean? Software is freedomware if the following is true:

  • The user can run the software without restrictions.

  • The user can make copies of the software in question.

  • The user can have access to the source code and make changes if they so wish.

  • The user can publish modified copies of the software, so long as recipients have the same rights as they had.

Freedomware means that the user is set free from artificial restrictions set by those who want to suck money out of them. With so called computer software “security vendors”, I believe that one word is appropriate; extortion! Due to large entities using software patents to stifle competition, users are often stuck with such products, or so they think.

With freedomware, most “open source” and all of “free software” can be placed under the same umbrella. People who look at the software will know that the primary goal is freedom, not monetary cost. To ensure freedom, we must be ever vigilant, and that does not simply mean watching the other entities and groups to make sure no transgression against such has occurred. It also means helping those who are willing to help us.

For starters, there exists the opportunity to improve 3D acceleration for graphics hardware from companies such as ATI and Intel thanks to the availability of hardware specifications. There is also an effort underway to reverse engineer the specifications of NVIDIA graphics hardware so that drivers can be written for them. OGG and FLAC are a great starting point for multimedia enthusiasts, but the software for the creation of multimedia must be improved. Effort has been underway for quite some time in the Austin, Texas area to give computers to children whose parents can not otherwise pay for them. Not only does such an effort need to be supported, but similar initiatives must be started across the country and around the world as well.

When computer users are liberated from artificial restrictions, they begin to have a better understanding of the technology in question. Those who do not understand technology will be controlled for the rest of their lives by those who do. When Steven Levy wrote his book about hackers, he was incorrect about one detail. The Computer Revolution did not start with the Tech Model Railroad Club. The Computer Revolution's true beginning is here and now.

You can contact Thomas here:

All-Righty Then...


Anonymous said...

While most of this was stuff we already know, the author tied it into the things helios mentions as important. I really enjoyed the tie-in to history and the way he brought us forward with it.

Bookmarked and lauded. Thanks.


PV said...

Absolutely wonderful. I have been searching all over the Interwebs for an appropriate alternative to the term "free software" with the same meaning without bringing in the issue of cost.
Also, I am absolutely honored that you are following my blog, Ken. In a few posts I've tried to raise awareness of your program and of Linux in general for those people who do read my blog.
Thank you.

a Linux Mint user since 2009 May 1

Unknown said...

I am absolutely honored that you are following my blog

Please...If you continue to scoop me I HAVE to follow your am I gonna get my source material?

thanks buddy.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for bringing this into the light Ken. Thomas has written an insightful piece and one everyone should read from time to time.

It has the presence to "ground" one when things get a bit cloudy. This is well written and hopefully will get disseminated widely. It needs to.

Adam Gonnerman said...

Good stuff. The real point for me in open source is that we need to get past software as product. It is a means to ends (whatever they may be), not an end in itself.

Jraz said...

Nice piece of writing. I for one learned a bit of history from this essay. I love the fact that anyone regardless of financial status can be on the same playing field in terms of choices in the Linux and Open Source world. These days every penny counts. So my applause goes out to all of those that labor to bring distributions of Linux, computers to those in need, the creators of the software we use on them and the tireless efforts in all the forums and blogs that educate, inform and entertain us.

Unknown said...

@ Adam

You know, from a "Global Perspective" I fully agree with you...but things are relative...

As a Level III tech support agent, I got the calls that the Level I's and II's couldn't deal with or I took the overflow when it got busy. I took a call from a 73 year old woman in tears and openly sobbing. She said to me:

I did everything they told me to do and it still doesn't work. This is my son's computer and if he comes home and it's broken like this, he will be very angry with me."

The problem was no connectivity. I asked her what anti virus she was using and she said Norton. I asked her when the last time she updated the software and she said when she turned on the computer, it just upgraded itself and told her the upgrade was done. It was then that I knew. I navigated her step by step into the configuration gui, told her to click on firewall and then disable it. She connected immediately.

There is NO reason that a 73 year-old woman should be brought to tears and fear by a computer.


At this point, we will disagree. The software IS a product and the level of that product is the key. I took it on my own to write her number down, call her the next day on my own time and explain to her about Linux. Since she lives in North Dakota, a home visit was OOTQ, but via two day phone calls, she downloaded the iso, burned it and I got her a dual boot on that computer. Even her son was impressed by it.

So philosophically, you and I stand shoulder to shoulder, but when you become involved in an inter-personal relationship like this...

It's hard to not see a product and a resulting solution.


Anonymous said... is a bit along similar lines. Not 100% with him, but close enough!

Adam Gonnerman said...

@ Blog of helios: I actually don't see a disagreement at all. On an individual user level I want software to be incredibly user friendly. There's a big push in that direction in the open source community, although of course there are some geeks who like a challenge and shun distros like Ubuntu as being to "ready-out-of-the-box" (yes, I know at least one person who has said that).

My point was and is that software should work so well, easily and completely that we don't have to spend much effort marketing it and even less thinking about how to use it. Software should exist as a solution to other problems, not as a stand-alone product.

I suspect we are talking past each other here.

Unknown said...

@ Adam

No...I suspect I either didn't read carefully or read too much into it.

Your point is well made and on target 5x5.


Unknown said...

Finally I can stop saying, "Not free as in beer...". Now if we can just get the Free Software Foundation to change to the Foundation for Software Freedom. They wouldn't even have to change the acronym. Thanks for the post Ken.