DISCLAIMER: This site is a mirror of original one that was once available at http://iki.fi/~tuomov/b/

I've occasionally been criticised by some free software advocates for using Opera – and suggesting other people to switch to it – as well as the proprietary NVidia video card drivers. Even some people who speak of “open source” have engaged in such criticism, and yet they're supposed to be more practically-minded than the free software people. While the freeness and openness of the source code of the software I use does weigh a lot, and I would rather have all the software I use to be free (libre), it is not a fixed idea for me. There are various other criteria as well, and when the non-free (closed source) software fares considerably better with respect to these criteria, I will use it.

Gnomefox – previously known as Firefox, Firebird, Phoenix and whatnot – in particular is utter and total crap compared to Opera, although the latter is also far from perfect. And as the other free graphical browsers aren't that good and mature either, Opera is my browser of choice. If you can't live with that, perhaps it is time to make the free software not suck so much. The source code is available, you can do it! I am not going to spend considerable time learning a piece of bloatware, and perhaps even maintaining a fork of it, if the problem is in the policies of the project in question, and there are tolerable alternatives available, even if they are non-free. In case of video card drivers and the like, the situation is complicated by the closedness of the hardware.

Indeed, closed source software as such is no threat to free software. Any choice is primarily beneficial, whether it be free or non-free. The real threats are closed formats, protocols and hardware, as well as certain hegemonistic trends within the free software movement itself. Non-free software is an alternative to free software that helps making the free software better; closed formats, protocols and hardware as well as our-size-fits-all design principles in major free software projects are anti-choice practises along with patents; these are used to block out alternative implementations, to deny choice from the end-user.

It is not much work to write a free alternative to a non-free program compared to the task of reverse-engineering formats, protocols and hardware, and doing this constantly to track changes deliberatery made to block out alternative implementations. The source code to a program being available can considerably help with this task, but anti-choice practises with obscure and changing formats are not in principle exclusive to closed-source software. Patents, on the other hand, are used to block out alternative implementations while the specifications are in the open, at least partially. Fortunately patents can be circumvented by moving distribution to darknets, anonymous P2P networks and the like – and I'd like to see more integrated support for such “sources” in distributions.

Infact, most commodity software is free in the sense of “free beer” as far as I'm concerned. There's no ambiguity in the term “free software” as the only common meaning that isn't a tautology is “software whose source I can (rather) freely use”. (The “rather” is there to not disqualify the GPL.) There's no way I'm going to pay for software that I can get for free – and most commodity software is available for free – just because the copyright-extortion mechanism gives someone the “right” to make such demands. No property is sacred to me, and copyright – as the right to govern copying – in particular is null and void as far as I'm concerned, being largely unenforceable. Copyright is dead, and we have killed it! Long live the might to copy! Indeed, as right equals might, works that fall under copyright legislation are ceasing to be property due to the unenforceability of such claims.

Having said that, I might occasionally be willing to pay, at my own option, for features I want to be written and to encourage further general development (as well as for new music, books and other works of art I'm interested in to be produced or released, in full). Such support would most likely be on the condition of the source code being made freely available, however. Indeed, in a post-copyright world not even haunted by the dead idea anymore, I doubt that many forms of non-free (i.e. closed-source) software could survive. Infact, hardware drivers and software related to closed formats and protocols to which people have been locked into are the most likely exceptions. Some games may also be exceptions, as there could be benefits from it being difficult to meddle with their operation, and most games are, after all, more comparable to “fixed” works of art than application software. Even such games do, however, contain engines that could be free and constantly improved for other titles.