Friday, July 14, 2006

Freespire: the undiscovered country

Freespire is venturing into new territory an undiscovered country, by offering a community Linux distro that includes the option to include “legally” licensed proprietary software pieces within the core distribution. I have seen that Linspire fully supports the open source model; however they know what we all know. If Linux is to gain real acceptance by real people, then it needs to work with DVD players and iPods, and fully support hardware, such as 3D graphic cards, WiFi, sound, and printers.

Now I know, Freespire /Linspire is not doing anything new here. I know a few other Linux distributors have either included a few proprietary drivers with their distribution, and some even point its users to sites where they could obtain some proprietary drivers and programs. Now what I saw new in Lindows 4.0 was they cut out the middleman for almost all the Linux-compatible proprietary programs. They are simply providing what current Windows users expect to have access to before even thinking about switching over to GNU/Linux. The goal is to build up the GNU/Linux user base.There is a new user exploring Linux today. They are not Linux hobbyists, programmers or FOSS developers . Regular everyday-people are hearing about alternatives that are more secure and more affordable.

Less face the facts....we could argue all day that more people need to reject the non-free software and related hardware, sounds good on paper. It would take a mass movement to convince vendors to change how they do things. You would need a vast audience of Windows users to join the FOSS cause, an unlikely scenario indeed.
No one wants to talk about the fact that the vast majority of GNU/Linux users have some amount of non-free software on their systems. Tell me, why is there a need for “Automatix”?" Is it because in Ubuntu you can’t play a DVD, can’t listen to MP3s or watch streaming video in the browser out of the box? “It doesn’t just work.” It's up to you to add these non-FOSS capabilities to your system. If they hate closed software over there so much then why use nVidia and ATI proprietary video drivers. Maybe they should never use Java or Macro media Flash. They should give up their MP3 songs. I know they wont give up on those proprietary apps. Their hypocrites. Linspire uses legally licensed, proprietary codecs, drivers and software from third-party companies. Without utilizing this software, Linux is right back where I started years ago; not very unusable.

I know some of you say...”If it weren't for Free Software, Microsoft would rule completely. “No, the problem is that many people are not even choosing Windows, they think is that's the only choice available to them. Microsoft has super support from Independent software vendors. Its at a point that many people in the windows world believe; their computer runs "Microsoft" and even though most of the favorite software (free or not) on their systems isn't actually Microsoft's software. It dose not matter to those people. So it has nothing to do with free vs commercial. Everything is "Microsoft" to them.

Free software is not the only good software, for one thing, and secondly, there are not a sufficient number of free software packages to meet all needs. Linspire announced back in April of 2005 the availability of Adobe Reader 7.0 for Linux to Linspire users, the full Adobe Reader 7.0 version was the first upgrade Adobe had produced for Linux users since Adobe Reader 5.0.9 for Linux in 2002. Linspire was the first desktop Linux distributor to provide the product directly to their customer base. Yes Adobe Reader 7.0 is not open, but it does dramatically improve the ability for desktop Linux users to open, view, search, and print Portable Document Files (PDFs). It’s much better than the open KghostVeiw. Consumers are not purists, they want what they want.
Wasn't it a good day when FarStone announced a Linux version of their award-winning Personal Disaster Recovery software solution, RestoreIT. The software, designed to complement Linux-based operating systems, allows users to restore lost data or an entire system that has been damaged due to computer errors or other common mishaps. It will be know as RestoreIT Linux Edition (LE). RestoreIT LE will be available to customers soon through a variety of channels, including Linspire's /Freespire's CNR (Click and Run) Warehouse as well as pre-installed on computers offered by Linspire partners.
Adobe Reader 7.0 and RestoreIT are killer apps on Windows. I am glad that there are purist distributions all over the web, but I am also grateful for consumer products that provide a degree of freedom.
An OS is only as good as its ISVs (Independent software vendors). If Linux ever got native programs like: Photoshop CS2, Photoshop Elements 4.0, Autocad, Dreamweaver, iTunes, Macromedia Studio, Quicken 2006, Visio, Quickbooks, TurboTax, and maybe Lotus Notes; Microsoft would lose market share over night.

So, is Freespire open source or proprietary?

Again, the choice is yours. There are two versions of Freespire available. The main Freespire version is approximately 99% open source, as it does include certain proprietary drivers, codecs and software in cases where there are no viable open source solutions yet available. For example, either out of the box, or through products in the CNR Warehouse, Freespire offers legally licensed support for: MP3, DVD, Windows Media, QuickTime, Java, Flash, Real, ATI drivers, nVidia drivers, Adobe Acrobat Reader, proprietary WiFi drivers, and so on. However, if you prefer, you can choose the version of Freespire which is composed of only open source code and contains no proprietary software whatsoever.

“We must under stand that: one's fight for freedom shouldn't come at the expense of another's right to choose.”

You who want “FOSS” can have their Freespire (A 100% open source version) without compromising their principles, and that every one else can get access to the other Freespire ( A "hybrid" version will include proprietary codecs, drivers and software for an enhanced, "out-of-the-box" user experience) with a very large amount of proprietary software in Linspire's repository. While I do support software freedom myself, I think we should applaud Linspire's efforts to provide affordable consumer alternatives that do use free software and we also should applaud their move to make more options freely available.

What is the main, overriding philosophy of the Freespire project?

Freedom of choice. Freespire believes the user should be free to choose what software they want to run on their computer. The user should be able to easily choose from both open source software, as well as legally obtained 3rd-party proprietary offerings. For example, Freespire lets each individual user decide if they want to use OpenOffice (free, open source), StarOffice (purchased, commercial, proprietary), or any number of other office suite solutions. The choice is yours.
The first beta release of Freespire is available for download.

“Freespire is about freedom. Locking someone into open source software is just as bad as locking someone into proprietary software.”

The freedom to mix free and proprietary software is also a choice.


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