Freedom is a choice. Freedom means having complete control of your own life. And this applies to computing, as much as it does to every other activity in our lives. Today I want to talk about why I would choose freedom over anything else.
If you want to fly, give up everything that weighs you down.
Around 30 years ago Richard Stallman formally founded the free software movement. The philosophy of this movement is that computer users deserve the freedom to form a community. Practically, this means, rejecting propriety software and promoting free software. (Here, “free” may refer to “free speech” and not “free beer”.)
A free software gives the user the freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software when they wish. A propriety software does the exact opposite and snatches this freedom from the user. If the user cannot control the program, the program controls the user. Life without freedom is oppression.
If this sounds all vague to you, let me give you an instance. Let us assume you ordered soup at a restaurant. The dish was served, you had your first sip and didn’t like it. You prefer your soup with a pinch of pepper. Now the catch is that, in this particular restaurant, the chef (developer) is constantly tracking your activities. As soon as you touch the tray of condiments, you will be reported and put behind bars. That is the rule here. Would you like it? Adding pepper to your own soup is illegal. Not only that, if you like your soup, you can’t share the recipe with a friend, because that too is illegal. This is what happens when using non-free software.
Sadly, there is a general lack of awareness about free and open source software (FOSS) in my community. All throughout primary and secondary education, I was encouraged to use non-free software. It was not until I met some wonderful mentors who told me about the FOSS culture, that I realized how beautiful its philosophy is. As computer scientists we must live as a community and cooperate with each other. Not only will that reduce redundancy of code and give faster results, but also give us power since ‘united we stand, divided we fall.’
And that is how I started my journey… towards freedom.