[clug] Off topic: OS/X USB boot device for 'normal' PC'S

Daniel Rose drose at nla.gov.au
Wed Jun 25 23:10:00 GMT 2008

Mike Carden wrote:
>> I think
>> this is a great illustration of why pretty much all proprietary software is
>> evil.
> Ah, to see the world in such Black and White terms.

I suspect you are about to try and cloud the issue....

> I wonder what the worldwide balance between proprietary and
> non-proprietary software is, and further, what proportion of software
> users care about the difference. I reckon that most people are as
> aware of the OS running their desktop PC as they are of the OS running
> their web mail or pR0n site or mobile phone or their car. (hint: don't
> know, don't care).

One could make the same argument about the general erosion of various civil rights and freedoms in essentially the same terms.  Whether or not the general population know or care doesn't change the rational or ethical arguments surrounding the issue of proprietary software or any other ethical question, such as <$Corporate malfeasance example>.

Ignorance may indeed be bliss but there's (IMO) an implicit social contract, essentially so that the better educated and usually wealthier amongst us are morally obliged to work to improve the nature of society for all.  It seems to me that this gets confused with the ideas of "White man's burden" and so has fallen out of favour lately, leading to a more self-interested approach that is not sustainable in the long term.

Coming back to computers, these same users don't know and don't care that they are in a botnet.  Should we just let them be?

> IMHO the vast majority of computer users just want to do the thing
> they use the computer for; read mail, read web sites, watch videos,
> maybe compose a document or two, print stuff out, load their iPod with
> DRM infested tunes or (gasp) stolen tunes. Everything else is so far
> outside their sphere of concern as to be invisible. All that 'Free
> Software' stuff is for geeks and freaks.
> Is it evil to make money catering to those people?
Mostly, yes.  It's certainly evil to lobby a democratic government against the interests of the people, or to avoid paying nominated taxes, or to misrepresent the nature of the product, which are all part of the way that the money is made.

On the other hand, I make money catering to these people using Ubuntu so I'm not sure how your point relates to free vs proprietry software.

In any case, corporations aren't sentient or conscious so evil is not applicable here, it's nonsense in the same way it's silly to talk about an evil desk or tree.  Or evil software.

> I look to P.T. Barnum for inspiration. He considered it his duty to
> part fools from their money.

That's ok, I look to George Bernard Shaw who [probably] considered it his duty to argue a lot with everyone.

Daniel Rose
National Library of Australia

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