How Free Can You Be

There’s an interesting discussion that occurs any time a project goes from using a proprietary license to one that falls under the umbrella of a “free software” license. This conversation also occurs when someone posts a screenshot of a GNU/Linux system running a proprietarily-licensed piece of software. You even have this conversation stirring up when someone calls it open source instead of free software. To what end does this freedom serve?

The free software community is kind of like a mini-representation of what’s left of center in the political spectrum.

You’ve got the ones right up against the center who like free software, and thinks it’s a good idea, but they don’t care whether a piece of software they use is free software or not.

A little left-adjacent, you’ll find the ones who like free software and might even develop it. They’re the kind who’s going to use a free software as long as it can be installed without much effort. These are candidates for Director of the Linux Foundation.

Now we’re about 1/4 into the left and we’ve got the ones who will sort of go out of their way to use a free software alternative because they have a relatively easy install procedure.

About 1/3 into the spectrum you’ve got the ones who’ll go out of their way to find free software alternatives and switch to the alternatives, even where you might have to give up a feature or two.

A little further left, but not quite halfway yet, you’ve found the people who go to free software conferences and do all the things those closer to the center did. Now you’ve reached the level of Bryan Lunduke, maybe.

Halfway through you’ve got the people who will actually go into the procedure and build a few of the suspect apps that have a build procedure clearly lain out for them.

More than halfway, but not by much, you have the people who will build any C application because they’re most comfortable with that workflow. I know a few friends like this. Do you compile your own apps?

Even further left, you have the ones who are compiling any of the applications they install after the installation of the GNU/Linux distro.

Now we’re 3/4 way in and you’re meeting the people who actually compile their distro flav of the month for production use.

A little more and now people are compiling the distro and the apps they install.

Not quite all the way left, you have those who’re compiling slackware from source. People around here are building their kernels, the distro, choosing the package lists to include. This is ultimately advanced Linux territory. You’ve met Richard Stallman

All the way left…well, they left this world a long time ago. We don’t see them anymore. They’ve descended so deep in the mole people society that they just code for coffee. RMS is likely to reach this stage at some point.