Look at Gnome 3 or Windows 8 and what jumps at you? Touch-friendliness? Not really. Because let’s face it, as soon as you go a little deeper into the system — admittedly, this is an area where few average users would venture on their PC — the touch-friendliness is gone. But my complaint is not about these systems not being touch-friendly enough; it is that they tried to do be that way at all!
I have a couple of friends who follow the “whatever does my job more easily” principle when it comes to choosing their computer systems. Obviously, for them Windows wins hands down when it comes to operating systems. After all, it works with nearly every piece of hardware that was ever created, be it old or new, and nearly every software that is ever needed to do anything in business or personal life is available for Windows. So they find my passion for Linux and free software quite amusing and even pointless, to say the least.
Their main premise is based on this argument more or less: computers are tools just like any other, and you should pick one that does your job most easily rather than worrying about how good/bad the system is for its own sake or whether it’s open source or proprietary software. That’s where I disagree with them.
Some time ago, I posted my thoughts on Steve Jobs and his legacy, and linked to a definition of “free” on the website of the Free Software Foundation. In case that gets misconstrued as my full endorsement of that definition, and to talk about the things about that definition that don’t sit very well with me, I am writing this post.
If there’s one word that defines Steve Jobs for me, it’s “inspirational.” And it’s not just because of his iconoclastic nature, because he didn’t break away from traditions just to be different. It’s because he had the sense to understand which traditions had to be discarded to do something great — which in his case was to get computer technology out of the geek domain and put it in the hands of the common man.
Imagine yourself in a skirmish where you’re the one holding the gun while your opponent stands unarmed; imagine the power it gives you. Now imagine taking that gun and shooting yourself in the foot.
That’s similar to what IBM did when a very small company named Microsoft sold them — nay, “licensed” — an operating system Microsoft didn’t even own. Sounds stupid? It should, because it really was.
Of course, you can’t blame a guy for being dumb, but what IBM did back then created a tidal wave of bad business for the consumer, which has engulfed the whole world today. And the worst part of it all is that most of us don’t even realize what a bad deal we get when we purchase a typical software license.
To give you a perspective, here’s an example: Continue reading