Free Software Foundation hates the iPhone, proposes ugly alternative

The FSF is doing itself no favors by promoting freedom that looks as ugly as it likely sounds.

Neo Freerunner

I love the Free Software Foundation. I give it credit for coming up with the world's best open-source license (GNU General Public License) and for holding the line on software freedom when many, including myself, stray at times. We need someone reminding us that freedom matters.

It may not always matter, however, in the way the FSF declares. Or, rather, the FSF should probably come up with a better alternative to proprietary software before putting up a sickly contender, as it has in a recent post castigating the iPhone for its use of DRM and other proprietary technology.

In place of the iPhone the FSF holds up one of the ugliest phones I've ever seen, with a UI that only a mother could love:

The iPhone is an attack on very old and fundamental values -- the value of people having control over their stuff rather than their stuff having control over them, the right to freely communicate and share with others, and the importance of privacy.... [OK, point well taken.]

The also a tracking device, and like other proprietary GPS-enabled phones, can transmit your location without your knowledge.... [Er, yes. That's what I'm hoping, actually.] Of all the technology people use that could be turned against them, this is one of the most frightening possibilities....[Growing increasingly paranoid, aren't we?]

Apple's DRM system monitors your activities and tells you what you are and are not allowed to do. What you are not allowed to do is install any software that Apple doesn't like. This restriction prevents you from installing free software -- software whose authors want you to freely share, copy and modify their work.

OK. Fine. And so what does the FSF propose? This (see right). The Neo Freerunner. Try again, FSF. It's OK to have a developer-centric interface for developers, but it's anathema in the consumer market where phones like the iPhone and Freerunner compete. No one beyond the most ardent FSF devotee is going to use the Freerunner, nor should they. How can you in good conscience foist this aesthetic abomination on consumers?

Make a beautiful and free (as in freedom) phone and rightfully request that the market consider it. But don't promote freedom that comes in this guise.

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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