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[gNewSense-users] (Long and sort of) OT: Converting people to free softw

From: Nuno Miguel dos Santos Baeta
Subject: [gNewSense-users] (Long and sort of) OT: Converting people to free software (was: Songbird freedom)
Date: Mon, 8 Mar 2010 21:56:37 +0000


I've been using Un*x (e.g., Ultrix, SunOS, *BSD* (this is a regular
expression), Solaris, IRIX, GNU/Linux, etc) since 1986 and have been
following the GNU Project and FSF for many years.  I believe in free
software, try to use free software and only free software (Mathematica
being the only exception, but I'm forced to use it) and my FSF
membership number is 2009.

BTW, in this message, I'll be using GNU/Linux distribution and OS as
if they are the same.  It makes my life easier :-o

A few days ago, I asked on this list about Songbird's freedom,
mentioned Ubuntu and some people pointed out (correctly) that Ubuntu
is not a free distribution.  Even though, sometimes that is the
distribution that I use when converting someone from Windows or Mac OS
- I'll explain why bellow.  But let me tell how I convert someone into
free software.

* If that person is using a BSD based distribution, my experience
tells me to forget trying to convert him/her.  For what is worth, I've
learned Un*x using BSD based OSes.  My transition to GNU/Linux, which
resembles System V, wasn't very easy - I hate System V...

* If that person is using a non-free distribution of GNU/Linux, e.g.,
Ubuntu, I tell him/her them about the freedoms they are giving up and
the choices of free GNU/Linux distribution (s)he have .  After that
it's his/her decision to make a conversion, with or without my help.
Some make the conversion, but usually they don't.  I guess the later
ones don't value their freedom :-|

* If that person is using Windows or Mac OS, it's "easy", i.e., this
is the case where I'm most successful.  Usually, this type of user
doesn't really know much about computer and I guess that this makes
the conversion easier.  I start by telling them about other "free"
applications they may use instead of the closed source ones.  For
example, use Firefox (one reason I wrote "free" and not free, no
double quotes, in my previous sentence), Thunderbird,,
Maxima, Octave, R, etc.  Slowly, with small or no help, they start
using them.  Later, when I think they are ready (?!?), I ask the
person why is he/she using a non-free OS when all other applications
are "free"?  This is when I introduce GNU/Linux, gNewSense and the
notion of freedom they preserve.  If they accept, I'll then install
gNewSense  and help whenever he/she requests.

Unfortunately, sometimes I'm unable to install gNewSense :-(  For
example, I tried to install gNewSense on a Toshiba Satellite T130
(from a co-worker) but all I got was a black screen :-(  I was able to
install Ubuntu, but even then I was unable to solve a "small" problem:
the computer had no wired or wireless network.  That portable was
returned and another one bought, which now runs gNewSense.

There are other situations where I'm able to install gNewSense, but
unable, for example, to have wireless network working.  For me the
decision is simple, use/buy an USB dongle.  The problem is the person
I'm helping might not want to use/buy a USB dongle.  Then all can do
is install Ubuntu, which usually solves the problem using non-free

This solution of installing Ubuntu causes, IMO, a big problem.  As I
wrote above, someone who already uses a non-free GNU/Linux
distribution, won't change to a free one.  Do you, list members, think
that this is an "acceptable" solution, just because they aren't using
a totally closed OS?

Finally, another question to the list.  How do you convert someone to
a free GNU/Linux distribution, gNewSense in particular, from a
non-free OS?  I would like to hear from you as I want to improve my
"conversion" skills :-)

Nuno Miguel dos Santos Baeta
ille nihil dubitat quem nulla scientia dictat

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