Einar's blog
14 feb. 2023

I Love Free Software Day

I want to thank all the developers, contributors, translators, designers and project leaders who have given me so much great software on I Love Free Software Day! I also want to thank a harpsichordist from Bergen who many years ago showed me that GNU/Linux was a good alternative to Windows or MacOS. Even though I did not do anything about it at the time, some years later, curiosity led me to try out various GNU/Linux distros in VirtualBox on my Mac and that was the start of a gradual transition from Mac OS to GNU/Linux. I already used some free software like LibreOffice, Firefox and Thunderbird on my Mac and that helped ease the transition.

Free Software is about freedom. In practical terms for a normal user, it is very obvious how the users' interests is important for free software projects while non-free software often is more about forcing the users into usage patterns that strengthen the corporate interests of their creators even if it makes for a worse user experience. An example is how Microsoft tries to force people to use Bing, Edge and MSN by not respecting the user's browser and search engine settings when doing a web search from the start button in Windows 11. It makes advertising money for Microsoft, but it is very user-hostile, especially since the users already paid for Windows as part of the cost of their machine. This is just one small example, but there are many more.

I also like how I can help improve free software by contributing to projects I like. I have contributed money, bug reports, translations, feature requests and a bit of very simple code, and hope to do more of this in the future. It is also possible to influence the direction of a free software project by contributing to it. This puts the most active users in the driving seat. In a worst case scenario where a project goes in a direction people dislike, it is possible to create a fork since free software licenses give the freedom to modify a program and distribute your changes. A famous example is how OpenOffice was forked to create LibreOffice which is now the default Offie suite on most GNU/Linux distributions. (OpenOffice is no longer actively maintained.)

I also like how Free Software empowers me as a user to customize it to my liking and learn how to programme in the process. With Free Software, my computer is personal again. Not only can I choose between a lot of desktop environments or window managers to match my preferred workflow, I can also customize these further to my liking. While I prefer a tiling window manager with a keyboard-centric workflow without any panel or bar for maximum screen real estate for my programmes and a minimum of mouse clicks and movement to get things done, other people prefer a full desktop environment either of the more traditional type or a reimagination with new user interfaces like Gnome. GNU/Linux is modular enough to give us those choices by design. GNU Emacs is another piece of software that is very customizable and when you customize it, you also learn how the code of the program itself works since you customize it in the same language as it is made with by adding your own functions and modifying built-in variables. The documentation of the program is very helpful for learning how to do this. It was the first programme made by the GNU project and a prime example of the freedoms of free software put into practice. The numerous forks of it attests to the importance of those freedoms for people wanting to use parts of it or change it more to their liking.

Happy I Love Free Software Day!

All blog content is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike. Produced with GNU Emacs, Org Mode and org-static-blog on GNU/Linux.