Philosophy: Ubuntu and Trisquel

I wrote this in response to a concern.

The Free Software debate is a long one. There is a principle amongst both developers who want to serve users honestly and users who have been treated badly in the past, that we needed a way of identifying the rights and privileges that any user of software ort to have as a matter of the normal set of freedoms we each have in any other area of life.

Because of computers and software are new to humanity, it’s taken us forty years to go from anarchistic freedom to over-controlled monopolies to a more open market with legal frameworks. Free Software (and the FSF) were critical is finding out what was needed and filling in all the legal and philosophical foundations which would move us, not backwards towards anarchism, but forwards towards freedom with fairness.

Linux and many other software projects owe the FSF, and the philosophies, a great deal. These projects require the structures and foundations laid down by the ideas and principles of people who didn’t think it was good enough to be just practical for ones own benefit.

We’ve been doing a delicate dance for many years trying to move the established order over to this new system; trying to make exceptions, bend the rules and fitting the pieces of the puzzle together by hook and crook. Trying to make sure that Free Software is Free, useful and economical. This we hope, will bring more interest, more developers and more stability.

New users misunderstand why we would put non-free pieces into our systems. Some think that practicality is the only function and that social responsibility is simply not needed. I think differently. We keep track of all the non-free pieces that we need for functionality, but work hard to replace them all the time. This is not fundamentalism, it’s simply that this software is disrespectful. It isn’t a civil member of the software world and despite having to use it to make computers work, we don’t invite it round for tea and support it’s campaign to be elected as the normal method of software production.

But once in, it’s hard to remember why we should spend any time replacing it or even if any work needs doing at all. Projects like Trisquel honour the Ubuntu community by showing us directly what work we need to still do in order to civilize the last few savage packages and drivers. They are our brother who’s uncompromising ideology and courageous functional sacrifice is helpful to our own progression. Even if we, ourselves need to balance both the need for Freedom and functionality.

And surprisingly to some, conversely it’s important to note how important a practical Ubuntu is to the FSF and projects like Trisquel. It’s just too easy to exclude users with difficult hardware or complex needs reducing the size of the user community as it is to thoughtlessly add proprietary components into the system. We offer the FSF a perspective on overcoming user centric problems and a push towards inviting ever more practical people into becoming just a little more concerned with Free Software without having to throw their computer away first.

The very difficult path is not between two hard choices, but between two easy ones.

4 thoughts on “Philosophy: Ubuntu and Trisquel

  1. So you have Debian which has close to almost 1,000 ‘member’ with security infrastructure, yearly conferences, supports multiple archs, etc. and tried to be as free as the FSF wants but has reasons why it cant/doesn’t and will never be given the FSF OK.
    And then you have Ubuntu which has 100s of ‘members’ that has some security infrastructure, supports a few archs, etc and has its members use ‘universe’ which mostly comes from Debian and does not get the FSF OK.
    and Then you have trisquel which might be 10 ‘members’ with little more that derives most of what it has from Ubuntu and Debian and does not have the massive teams to maintain anywhere near the stuff that the other 2 have and they get to package only the stuff the FSF likes and they get to have the ‘ok’?
    I’m oversimplifying and am missing many details but I might have a point in there somewhere. Something about the usefulness of software freedom and different standards.

  2. @Kevix – Yes, usefulness. I kept Debian out of the post because they are quite the amazing project, with both a large user base a very strong philosophy. We learn a lot from them.

  3. Debian is amazing, without it, Ubuntu wouldn’t exist, and I would never have discovered GNU/Linux.
    I think people should try to make Linux a welcoming “place” to be. There’s too much unfriendliness in the proprietary world.

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