Why I use Linux And Will Always Choose Software Freedom
People probably wonder why on earth I would choose Linux for my daily computing needs rather than an “easier” platform, like Windows or Mac OS. Considering all the major software developers push for Win/Mac development, especially game companies and audio production software companies, you’d think Linux would be a person’s last choice. No, Linux is my first choice, and I don’t use it because it’s free… in fact I would gladly pay for it if I had to. In a nutshell, it all boils down to freedom.
Every discussion of freedom has to start with a very important definition: what, exactly, freedom is. One could argue that on another OS platform, I would be more “free” to do the things I want, because there are more choices. But freedom doesn’t mean being able to do anything you want. There are a lot of “false freedoms” that people strive for… True freedom, however, is synonymous with “God-given rights”, and God did not give us the right to do anything we want. There are three things in particular which are forbidden — things we don’t have the right to do — which affect our relationships with other people, namely: physical aggression, theft, and deceit. These three forbidden actions logically and necessarily imply three God-given rights which we all share, and which no government or corporation can take away: freedom from aggression, freedom from theft, and freedom from deceit. Note that among those rights, there is no right to healthcare, no right to a low interest rate or even to a loan at all, no right to a job, no right to use space or bandwidth on somebody else’s computer or network hardware, etc. Those are not rights, they are privileges, i.e. services that someone else provides, and if the provider of said services wishes, they can charge money for the services, provide them in any manner they see fit, give them away for free, or even deny providing them altogether. Not allowing service providers to deny proving their services to whomever they wish would amount to aggression against them and/or theft of their property.
Whew, sorry I got kind of deep there. So how do those three important rights relate to software use? Simple: I choose Linux because I do not wish to have my own computer hardware, nor the information stored therein, controlled or aggressed against by someone else. Of course I don’t mean I think that Avid will move my mouse cursor if I install Pro Tools, what I mean is in order to use their software, I am supposed to agree to a license agreement, which I simply find unreasonable. By agreeing to their terms, I am legally subject to using the software in a manner they have specifically outlined, and any other use could result in fines and/or jail time. By agreeing to the terms, I have given up the right to reverse engineer the software to learn how it works, I’ve given up the right to install as many copies as I want, and I’ve given up the right to improve or customize the software to fit my needs. Therefore, I’ve given someone else control of my computer.
Would I even want to reverse engineer Pro Tools? Probably not! But it’s the principle of giving up the right to use my computer as I see fit which steers my decision. And fortunately, there are enough like-minded software developers out there which allow me to even make the choice not to use proprietary software: The Linux ecosystem is huge, in fact. A typical Linux system has thousands of small, interconnected pieces of software that are each maintained by a person or a team of people, and they do it not because they wish to control how their work is used, but to contribute to the larger system. Many of them are paid by companies which benefit from the Linux ecosystem, but many are volunteers who simply enjoy coding and “scratching their own itch” as it were.
Importantly, having control over my own computer also helps prevent the actual physical control of my computer: spyware and viruses tend to be far, far less common on Linux than other platforms. I care about my own data too much to use untrustworthy software to store it. Granted, free/open-source software is not necessarily 100% trustworthy, but it’s far more so than proprietary offerings… demonstrably so. Many important pieces of f/oss code (such as the Linux kernel itself) is audited regularly because it’s freely available.
So in the end, while it may be limiting in certain practical ways, and I have my fair share of frustrating experiences, overall the joy of using software I truly control wins out. I do wish there were more free/open-source games though, I’ve unfortunately conceded to installing some closed-source games. Hopefully some more open-source games start appearing… if so, I’ll probably eventually ditch the proprietary ones altogether.