Linux laptops, revisited (can any sleep like my PowerBook does?)

Levi Pearson levi at cold.org
Mon Jan 21 16:31:27 MST 2008


Lonnie Olson <lists at kittypee.com> writes:

> Any assertion that those rights are *not* universal must also equally
> be religious.  I did not say these rights are universal.  I agree that
> they are "negotiable rights", but your statement connecting any rights
> definition on "human nature" and/or "God" is also religious.  Don't
> claim it not be.

Human rights have a fairly firm basis in philosophical reasoning
without resorting to the divine.  I won't get into it now, but you can
probably find an ethics text (or Wikipedia article) that reviews the
ideas.  The gist is that we have certain rights simply because we are
human beings, and that those rights can neither be given nor taken
away.  All other rights are negotiable between individuals, societies,
and governments.  I believe that the 'software freedoms' fall in the
latter category, and that it would take a religious argument to place
them in the former.  Does that clarify what I was trying to say?

> Developing non-free software is anti-social.  It prevents me from
> sharing with my fellow society members.  It prevents me from helping
> friends by adding needed features to their software for them.  It
> prevents me from innovating on top of other's innovation.

When I develop anything on my own, it's not any of your business what
it is I'm doing and what I choose to do with it.  If I build a tool
out of electronic components and hardware, I should be able to give it
away, sell it, or whatever without having to reveal how I constructed
it.  If you come along and tell me that I'm being rude by not
revealing my secrets, I believe that *you* are the one being rude and
anti-social.  I don't think software is fundamentally different in
this regard.  Sharing is a wonderful thing, but only if it's not
coerced.

> The biggest point of the Free Software movement is to educate people
> of the benefits of Free Software, and the amazing opportunities these
> freedoms grant.  This education is aimed at getting more people to
> demand and seize these important opportunities to enrich our societies
> and help our fellow man.  By refusing to use non-free software we can
> demonstrate that people understand the importance of these freedoms
> and realize their value.

The Free Software movement didn't create anything new.  People have
been sharing information, designs, etc. for as long as there have been
people.  Inasmuch as there are benefits to being open with such
things, I think it's a great idea to educate people about them.
However, I think it's wrong to *demand* that people share things they
don't want to, or to call them rude or anti-social for not sharing
what you want.  Refusing to use non-free software out of principle
only makes you look unreasonable, which will not help your case with
the people who you're demanding things from.

> I know I am never going to convince you, Levi, about the important
> benefits of these freedoms, since you admit that you will flush them
> away at will.

I'm certainly not flushing anything away!  I reap the benefits of open
source software every day.  I contribute back to it when I can.  I
also reap the benefits of commercial software-- I write some and get
paid for it, and I use some and enjoy the use thereof.  I simply don't
believe that I, or the majority of computer users, are somehow
violating a valid ethical principle by writing or using commercial
software.

When you talk about the benefits of free software, I'm right with you.
When you start insisting that those benefits somehow create a set of
principles that everyone should follow, then I have to wonder where
the leap in logic came from.  I could derive plenty of 'principles'
that would make the world a much better place if everyone followed
them, but that doesn't mean that I should go around insisting that
people are rude if they don't follow my ideas!

                --Levi



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