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Free Software Foundation Wants to Waste Your Money

Posted by: Stephen Wildstrom on August 26, 2009

win7sins.pngThe Free Software Foundation, whose mission of supplying the world with free (as in free speech, not free beer, as founder Richard M. Stallman puts it) software sometimes looks like a crusade, has come up with a truly silly idea. FSF wants you to send it money so that it can send letters to businesses urging them not to upgrade to Windows 7. It has already sent letters to 499 of the Fortune 500 companies—it skipped Microsoft—urging them not to use Win 7. And it says for each $25 it gets in contributions, it can send 50 more letters.

FSF’s Sins of Windows 7 Web site lays out the case against Win 7, and it’s not one that is going to convince many businesses, either by its specifics or its temperament. For example, its first argument is that Windows is “poisoning education”:

Today, most children whose education involves computers are being taught to use one company’s product: Microsoft’s. Microsoft spends large sums on lobbyists and marketing to corrupt educational departments. An education using the power of computers should be a means to freedom and empowerment, not an avenue for one corporation to instill its monopoly.

FSF has done a lot of good by promoting free and open source software. The Linux operating system is probably the best known product licensed under FSF’s General Public License. Mozilla’s Firefox, while made available under an alternative license, also stems from FSF inspiration. But the organization does have a tendency to get carried away by both its own evangelism and its hatred of Microsoft.

Reader Comments


August 26, 2009 5:10 PM

Will the Free Software Foundation liberate our schoolchildren from Microsoft by supplying free computers and educational software? If not, then they should shut their pieholes about education.


August 26, 2009 5:27 PM

why not let them do this, make businesses aware of alternatives, even though their IT department should know better already. Someone has to start pouring money out to get the world to convert to linuxism.

Dave Whittle

August 26, 2009 5:42 PM

Where did you get "hatred of Microsoft" from the FSF's position? Those are too strong of words to use for what amount to philosophical differences about business practices.

I don't hate Microsoft, but those of us who have been victims of Microsoft's well-documented ruthlesseness and lack of an ethical compass certainly see things in a different light from those who feel all is fair in love, war, and business.

And your comments, Steven, about the FSF having "a tendency to get carried away by both its own evangelism and its hatred of Microsoft" are gratuitous, unfair, unsupported, and prejudiced. IMHO, you owe the FSF an apology.


August 26, 2009 7:07 PM

There are plenty of reasons already for companies not to go to Windows 7.... primarily because there is cost but no real benefit from moving from Windows XP.
XP is what... it works fine!
MS may cut off support for XP in the future, but I'd think someone will provide 'middleware' to offer protection for XP.


August 26, 2009 7:48 PM

Education is not helped by Microsoft prioprietary technologies, it teaches students just the opposite principles of how technology could truly benefit a society and not be turned into monopolistic commercial properties. Disclosure: I own M$FT stock, because if you can't beat them in court, at least be smart enough to make money from thier profiteering.


August 26, 2009 8:05 PM

The article is silly, on the site it clearly says "donate". However, they do need to cut down on sensationalism.


August 26, 2009 8:08 PM

The author is foolish if he thinks corporations are panting to install Windows 7. At a time when most IT budgets have been cut to the bone, there is no money for upgrades that provide no value and have a costly learning curve.


August 26, 2009 8:27 PM

I dont see FSFs point in trying to convert people to free software. Many people dont care if windows is closed source. I am not a programmer and even if i was i would not care if the program i use is closed source. I myself use Mac os X.

I went to boston common today and i saw the FSF throwing out i think make pretend box versions of windows 7 and Mac os x and i took photos it is so funny what they do.


August 26, 2009 9:18 PM

Free software? You mean like Red Hat Linux and all of the other "freeware" that has sold out and now costs money to procure or have a service contract to support? Keep installing your freeware loaded with malware and don't go crying to Microsoft when your business or home system is brought to its knees because the freeware community leaves you hangin'.


August 26, 2009 9:21 PM

'absolute power corrupts absolutely' and it applies to software industry as well. Bill is respected as a philanphropist by donating most of his fortunes away,but he could have advanced information revolution much more had he simply made Windows an open platform for all to I being too 'john lennon'?i am counting on google Chrome to do this...


August 26, 2009 10:08 PM

Microsoft's only cares about money not producing a quality product. Don't shoot the messenger (FSF).


August 26, 2009 11:06 PM

Sqeezebox, while FSF does not specifically give software and hardware to anyone, in the education space there is a significant number of free products that will save schools significant money. Moodle and Sakai are stellar examples, but there are 100's more. I've seen school districts that have embraced free software and deployed desktops at 25-50% of the cost of Windows equivalents. Traditionally free software doesn't have marketing and is driven by customers asking for it. While some of the people who see this will not hear it, as a consultant I've been able to save significant dollars by using free and open source software for my customers.


August 26, 2009 11:27 PM

Uh huh. Business Week calls advertising silly but they are the experts. Most IT decision makers really are in the dark when it comes to how imposing Microsoft and Windows really are. Getting the message to them is a good idea, and targeted letters are as efficient a way to do that as any. I can't blame Business Weeks for advocating expensive, glossy prints of the sort that fill Business Week but decision makers no longer read such things and the return on investment is rather poor. Just ask Microsoft about how well conventional advertising worked to sell Vista.

Now is a great time to promote free software. Vista is in the toilet and XP is an insecure pain in the neck. Rather than be upsold to Vista 7, smart money is going to free software. If there's going to be training costs, you might as well get off the upgrade treadmill and get something out of it. Windows 7 is no better than any other version of Windows and in many ways is worse. Free software offers real improvements in features, stability, security and cost. Microsoft is over and it's time for the world to move on.

Joe Rinehart

August 26, 2009 11:27 PM

While I realize that the web is a more open forum than print this article belongs in a less formal and more opinionated blog, not on the web page of a major buisness publication. This level of bias is not appropriate. Stick to the facts, or get yourself a blogspot account.


August 27, 2009 1:39 AM

I tried Ubutun Linux 8.04 a few months ago and I found it to have poor driver support (both for old and new hardware), to be much slower than XP in all the areas that I matter and (that is obviusly an opinable matter) it has an ugly design and uglier look. No switch from XP to neither W7 nor Ubuntu Linux for now. When my box gets broken, I'll evaluate again.


August 27, 2009 4:37 AM

I myself am not very FSF friendly but still I can clearly feel the anti FSF and Pro M$FT vibes here. The author is campaigning for M$FT. How much did they pay you?


August 27, 2009 5:31 AM

A little to harsh a stance in my view. Though trying to promote a good cause FSF may appear to be too fanatical and actually deter people this way.


August 27, 2009 10:19 AM

I don't care if the author of this post was paid. I remember the time early on in the PC revolution when most of these geeks would not give a damn whether normal users could use computers.

Now suddenly after so many yrs they suddenly want everyone to drop everything and switch to Linux and free software. Give me one reason why? Can't it be my choice to use Windows.


August 27, 2009 11:00 AM

The FSF can only waste your money if 1) you donate to them and 2) you don't believe in what they are doing. Actually *you* would be wasting your money if you don't believe in what they are doing and still donate.

For the FSF get such a message out, sending to an influential group of companies like the Fortunate 500 is actually a good use of their money. The message itself, not so much. The hype and possible deception is something of a turnoff (e.g., Microsoft can't keep people from teaching with Windows, Office, etc.). Not that a commercial enterprise would ever use hype/deceit to further its own goals.

This article from BusinessWeek seems to be matching the hype found on the FSF sins site. Agreed - though entertaining, this piece as-is probably belongs in a blog.

Squeezebox again

August 27, 2009 1:08 PM

I'll confess to being old enough to remember when home computers first came out, around the time I was a senior in high school. I remember when "IBM Compatible" was a major selling point, because up until that time all computers came with proprietary software. Somehow the market decided on Microsoft as the standard, except for the rebels who decided on Apple. Then "plug-and-play" became another great advancement which allowed people to buy a peripheral from anyone and unless you owned an Apple, it (supposedly) would work on your computer. Next we had standardized browsers, which unleashed the power of the internet on the world. Recently the open source movement came along. Open source is good for a lot of people for a lot of reasons, but it also threatens the standardization which made the computer do so much for so many people. Whether you're using Chrome, Linux, or something else, be sure that your system will play nice with all the others, or else we go back to square one as a networked world.

Anonymous Coward

August 27, 2009 1:12 PM

What a crappy and useless 'article.' Good luck peddling your filth, BusinessWeek.


August 27, 2009 11:42 PM

Here is more information on 'twitter', who is a notorious Slasdhot nymshifter and troll, and also one of the 'perception managers' who shill for BoycottNovell. That's where most of these weird comments came from, as usual.

Tom Cooper

August 31, 2009 2:35 PM

I used to be in IT for a fortune 500. Spent a decade doing that work.

Waste of money is right. Even if you accept that the FSF is 100% right, these letters will be pointless.

Here's why:
1. Closed-source, business-specific applications only run on Windows (or HP-UX, or AIX, or Solaris)

2. Contract scares - 10,000 different "open source" licenses to be evaluated by corporate counsel.

3. WIFM? What's In it For Me? As an IT decision-maker, I was never measured on the "openness" of tools. I was measured on TCO, Time to implement, and ROI. Openness has little to do with any of those. (Yes, I know open protocols can help, but don't get me started on why an enterprise will use AD or another closed LDAP rather than, say, OpenLDAP. I could go on for months!)

4. They already know about them, and they are impractical to add into the crazy-complex mix of applications, OSs and business needs. There are lots of open source geeks in Fortune 500 IT. Lots of them, but at the end of the day those companies are VERY willing to buy closed source if it helps them make money.


November 28, 2009 8:25 AM

You dont get the point its not about open source, its about freedom of use.

Windows 7 is actually just windows 6.1 so that makes it a wingdows vista trojan horse.

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.



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