09.02.09

Why I Disagree with Jack Wallen Regarding “FUD”

Posted in FSF, FUD, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Windows at 5:00 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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Summary: In defense of the practice of highlighting problems with Microsoft’s business practices and shoddy output

THE FSF’s “Windows 7 Sins” campaign has garnered plenty of attention and coverage, some of which we assembled in:

Jack Wallen, an advocate of GNU/Linux, disagrees with the approach taken by the FSF and he is not one to be ignored. Among the things he wrote:

And whether the public knows it or not, this FUD that the FSF is spouting is actually true. Look at the list. You can take that list one-by-one and realize that the FSF is, at least, being honest. But I do think the FSF is missing a big opportunity here.

[...]

I personally think the FSF can (and should) do better than muckraking and FUD.

I would like to address Wallen’s point of view. Microsoft may not make this visible, but it is attacking GNU/Linux in the harshest of ways behind the scenes (even bribing against it, just watch this antitrust exhibit) and as we showed in the previous post, Microsoft constantly lies about the market share of GNU/Linux. It tries to discourage software vendors who support Linux and also demoralise GNU/Linux developers, not to mention the effect on prospective users of GNU/Linux, who are led to the false belief that GNU/Linux is very scarcely used. In many people’s perception, majority opinion infers “correct opinion” (even when a particular platform is not being chosen but gets imposed rather).

When dealing with bullies it is hard to be gentle. One can try, but it does not go very far. It is reasonable to debunk FUD using evidence (e.g. repeated observations), but sometimes a counter-action is also necessary. For instance, if Microsoft throws FUD at Linux and Apache for allegedly being “not secure”, one can provide evidence to the contrary. How? Well, it’s all comparative. The only way to refute such FUD is then to show that Windows and IIS are less secure. Security — like uptime — is gauged by negative measures like vulnerabilities, compromises, and downtime.

How about this chain of new reports about a very severe flaw in Microsoft IIS 5 and 6?

Unpatched flaw could take down Microsoft’s IIS server

A hacker has posted code that could be used to install unauthorized software on older versions of the server

[...]

Other versions of IIS are also at risk, according to Thierry Zoller, an independent researcher who has studied the issue. However, newer versions of Microsoft’s operating systems have features that make it less serious, he added via instant message.

Does the above quality as “FUD”? Does it make me a bad person when I post this informative observation that serves to defend the contention that Apache and Linux are “more secure”? Is there a better way going about proving it? If not comparatively, how else? Being shy to criticise can often be unproductive.

“I’ve killed at least two Mac conferences. [...] by injecting Microsoft content into the conference, the conference got shut down. The guy who ran it said, why am I doing this?”

Microsoft's chief evangelist

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A Single Comment

  1. twitter said,

    September 3, 2009 at 12:14 am

    Gravatar

    Sometimes, you have to call a spade a spade. The free software foundation has always told us why free software is better than non free software and that includes condeming restrictions and other practices that harm everyone. Here is a 1994 essay that sums up the sins of non free software and it’s owners. Here’s another one from 1992. Richard Stallman saw this all coming in 1983 when someone asked him to sign an NDA. The recent campaign against Vista 7 contains only a subset of what’s wrong with non free software. If anything, it’s toned down to factual observations about the software itself and ignores most of M$’s other criminal behavior. This portion of the newer essay is worth quoting:

    What does society need? It needs information that is truly available to its citizens—for example, programs that people can read, fix, adapt, and improve, not just operate. But what software owners typically deliver is a black box that we can’t study or change. Society also needs freedom. When a program has an owner, the users lose freedom to control part of their own lives.
    And above all society needs to encourage the spirit of voluntary cooperation in its citizens. When software owners tell us that helping our neighbors in a natural way is “piracy”, they pollute our society’s civic spirit.

    The biggest difference between now and 1992 is that people realize that the above is true but they need to be told clearly what they can do about it. Big publishers and software owners have shown their intentions too boldly and the public now understands where non free software will take them. The Bad Vista Campaign was a success and Windows 7 Sins will be an even bigger success because people are finally catching up to Richard Stallman. M$’s control is still firm, so people need strong words to make clear what they already know is wrong with the computer industry. Without that clarity, people might let themselves be lead along by M$’s billion dollar a month advertising and OEM grip into buying Windows or doing nothing.

    Another big difference between now and 1992 is that the free software economy is making billions of dollars for companies and people all around the world. As RMS recently said, claiming that free is software economically unsound is like claiming heavier than air flight is impossible when anyone can go to the airport and watch the industry for themselves. It’s time for industry to liberate itself too. They can do that a lot better with a public that values freedom.

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