Common Sense: Why the FSF’s “Windows7Sins” Campaign is a Crock of Shit

Once again, people are ready to drink the GNU kool-aid. Hey, it was free, but there are a number of fallacies on this page that the FSF is playing up in their typical fundamentalist style. Instead of focusing on the potentials of how great Free Software is, the FSF is once again pulling out the old “Microsoft Scare Puppet”, which in my mind resembles that creepy teacher puppet from the final scene of Pink Floyd’s The Wall.

Except it’s the FSF holding the strings, and Microsoft is the Puppet

Many of you readers just catching a glimpse of this from ident.ica may say that I’m being an “M$ Shill”, because clearly liking a proprietary corporation in the FOSS world is the grounds for being ostracized or worse. Maybe a certain someone will write a self-citing article briefly mentioning it. If you disagree with me on my views, that’s absolutely fine. However, troll me about it and I’ll show you to the door.

Now, let’s look at what the FSF is summarizing about Windows7, and see how they’re playing things out of proportion.

1. Microsoft has been poisoning education with their Windows offerings, and will do it again with Windows 7.

Pray tell, how is Microsoft forcing this on anyone? Last I saw, it was the schools opting into Microsoft Educational discounts…the same discounts that have existed for many different OS’es and hardware ranging from Apple to HP and other OEMs. Although many argue that Linux is usable enough for education, the fact is that administration tools for education in FOSS are somewhat non-existent.

Microsoft has well had a dominant platform because of how they market Windows, how they focus on usability at basic levels, and the fact that businesses and a majority of the workforce adopted with it. Logically speaking, no large corporation wants to invest precious time tinkering with setting a UNIX or Linux-based environment up across the board without making sure that their every need can be supported. Although many FOSS tools can replace functionality and even maintain compatibility with Microsoft products, the offerings at this time still fall short in some areas. It is up to the companies and schools to choose whether they want to adopt a Linux system or just go with an easier alternative.

2. Windows 7 is just like Vista and will enforce DRM, robbing you of your rights to own your own music.

Oh the horror! Oh..wait a minute. No it doesn’t. It supports playback of DRM’ed files, but no one is forcing you to purchase and use DRM’ed formats. This argument takes things out of proportion: Windows Vista and Win7 are CAPABLE of playing DRM’ed files you may have bought, they don’t make that STANDARD for all of your music files. If you import music onto or off of your Zune/iPod/Sansa, there is no DRM inserted into your music. It’s your music, and Microsoft understands that. Don’t like the Zune Music Catalog because of DRM? Choose not to use it. Windows is an open platform for development (just not at the source level), and you’re free to use just about any music player you want to. With Amarok becoming increasingly more stable on the Windows platform, the range of choices is ever expanding.

To put the parable another way: Thanks to the work behind the foundation, OGG playback is completely doable with native support in DirectShow. Does this mean Windows is forcing users to use OGG? No, it means OGG is an option and you have the POTENTIAL to use it.

3. Windows 7 is still insecure!

Actually, this is debatable at best. The FSF assumes that most users will use Windows in an insecure manner: downloading files illegally, opening up their firewall, and running as root. They don’t take into account that Windows7 actually ships with firewall capabilities, virus protection, and the UAC which now functions about on par with Sudo. A system is only as secure as a user makes it, and you can’t really solve the problem if a user is stupid.

Likewise, Windows still dominates the Operating System market. As such, it is the target platform for malicious code. This is where updated virus protection comes in. If Linux or Mac OS were farther into the mainstream, they too may feel security problems as more malicious hackers attempt to target their platforms.

4. Microsoft is an evil, evil corporation!

To quote the FSF’s page:

“Microsoft has been found guilty of monopolistic behavior all over the world. With Windows Vista, Microsoft worked with PC manufacturers to significantly increase the hardware specifications for the standard user-experience, causing people to require new computers to run the updated OS.”

Windows7Sins Campaign

There’s a flawed kind of logic with claiming this is a “monopoly action”.In my eyes, I have absolutely no problem with it. A software vendor worked together with hardware vendors to increase performance, and consequently it required hardware upgrades? Oh, that’s terrible! Obviously it’s another way for The Man to keep you down right? Apple does this shit all the time, and all I see are people ogling some shiny computer with similar specs. If anything, that strikes me as striving to make hardware and software work well together, something most FOSS devs should take note of.

There’s no getting around the fact that Microsoft fucked up alot during the 90’s, but guess what? Larger corporations that are “friendly” to FOSS have done worse things. IBM invested heavily in Hitler’s Regime. (So help me God, if one of you calls Godwin’s Law.)

5. Windows 7 doesn’t support Free/Open Standards!

And why should they? It’s not like they built heavily off your libraries. They made their own damn products the way they wanted. I myself dislike Internet Explorer 8 because it lacks compliance with the Acid3 test. But since you can remove it anyways, this is a moot point. You can install just about any browser you please that conforms to Acid3 standards, thus making your installation of windows support Open Standards. ODF Import/Export plugins exist for Office 2007, and it’s been rumored that it’s coming natively in Office 2010. So then, what exactly were you bitching about standards-wise?

6. Windows 7 is just another step in Vendor Lock-In!

No it isn’t. You can go with it, or stick with older versions. Third-party software companies will not support you at some point, but you decided to stick with the crappier older version anyway. Regardless, you can replace the OS of any Windows machine you own if you really want to. FOSS applications regularly support older versions of Windows (and sometimes MacOS), so you can get supported applications to read .docx files ( anyways, although some of the fundies will bitch about a different kind of evil about including compatiblity), and like stated above, MS Office 2007 and 2003 can be modified easily to support OpenDocument files. In fact, many universities are offering on Windows machines right next to the Microsoft counterpart.

7. But by installing it, your computer has to obey Microsoft’s rules!

While it’s true that the EULA prevents you from legally sharing the product, the fact is that it’s a commercial product. Just like you shouldn’t share that copy of Spore with 20 different people over Bittorrent, the same goes for proprietary operating systems. Other than that, though, you’re pretty much allowed to modify your installation as much as you like. Your computer is obeying you, and those WGA tests that are done are just to verify that you didn’t steal a copy like so many people do anymore. Didn’t Stallman actually advocate against piracy?

Sean is a guy from the middle of nowhere in Illinois who passionately supports Free Software, Free Culture, and decentralized communication systems. He serves as the editor of We Distribute, a publication dedicated to the development of the fediverse. In his spare time, Sean is a budding indie game dev, writer, web developer, and a musician.

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