Mast Kalandar

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Mon, 12 Mar 2001

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Letter to LWN on FOSS duties


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Dear LWN,

Does free mean "free from" or "free to"?

While there is a lot of discussion on the "free beer" versus "free
speech" distinction along with the emphasis on free as in "freedom",
there is perhaps not enough said about the *duties* that go with
freedom. In High School civics (in India) the fundamental rights of
people were always tied to the fundamental duties---there's that
uncomfortable "d" word again.

One of the duties that goes with free (mukta) software is that of climbing
the learning curve. Users should be continually encouraged to step beyond
the boundaries of their current knowledge---not sit tight in beautifully
designed boxes of their favourite desktop/window manager/user
interface. I have yet to see an interface that encourages such
exploration the way (for example) adventure and nethack do at the
level of games.

When we emphasise the development of software that makes computers easy
to use we should also beware that this should not lead to the "computer
is a toaster" analogy that many proprietary vendors like to promote.
Let us not bring more users into the free software fold by telling them
that life is easier here--rather that there are more opportunities to
use ones' abilities to the creative fullest.

Unfortunately, as long there will be people willing to "take the easy
way", there will also be a MicroSoft that leads them to a beautifully
decorated creative dead-end.


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