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07.12.11

The Ethics of Pro-Microsoft Mentality and Politicians

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Windows at 12:19 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Nichi Vendola
Image by Foto Giovanni

Summary: Nichi Vendola faces a new PR disaster, so the ethics of Microsoft boosters like himself are pondered

IS THERE a correlation between proprietary software agenda and sociopathy? Or putting it less negatively, can Free software be shown to have a correlation with those favouring social solidarity? The answers would rely on generalisation and there are always exceptions. The notorious traps of induction and deduction can lead proponents of each side to being chastised. Those who say that all GNU/Linux users are freeloaders (price) or are communists (opposing uneven distribution of wealth) are rightly receiving flak. It could be argued that Microsoft — and to a lesser extent Apple — is “communism” for taking away choice. Well, many Windows users are always after ‘free stuff’, which is sometimes used illegally (should one call them “pirates”?). Based on the donation- or contribution-based indie games model for spreading games we actually find that GNU/Linux are willing to pay the most and support the developers best. The distribution model is one thing, standards compliance is another, and then of course there are also business practices (e.g. bribes, collusion, SLAPP). Perhaps the most important point to make here is that generalisations often fail and they are highly dependent on perspective. The same insults Microsoft uses against GNU/Linux equally well apply to Microsoft, if not more so. So when Microsoft, for example, accuses Free software of using zero-cost distribution to compete, bear in mind the very recent news about Microsoft paying a college a quarter of a million dollars to impose more Microsoft on students. This is negative pricing, and in turn students are kept captive. It’s vicious and definitely unfair (maybe illegal, but the laws are very loosely enforced against large corporations).

To use an anecdote of Microsoft apologists (e.g. in education), recall the tales of Vendola [EN | ES] and mind this news from Italy:

At the end of 2010 Nichi Vendola, leader of the Left, Ecology and Freedom party and governor of the Italian Region of Puglia became a hot topic among the Italian Free Software Community for presenting, almost in the same day, a regional law for promotion of Free Software AND a partnership between Puglia and Microsoft, a company not exactly known for loving Free Software.

Very soon both news, though interesting for what they revealed of Vendola’s way to handle communication, were forgotten, for obvious reasons: Italians have plenty of much more urgent and understandable problems to worry about while Vendola is, I presume, much more concerned with what to do at the next political elections (he’s a likely candidate for the Prime Minister post) than with regional regulation of software.

This morning, however, the topic came back because Vendola announced in a press conference that that law proposal was approved one month ago by the Regional Council.

It’s interesting to see how this announcement was presented. To begin with, several “official” media outlets, for example Il Paese Nuovo and BariLive, copied word by word all or part of the official press release from Region Puglia without saying at all it was a copied press release or linking to the online source.

This probably brings us back to the question about the things we can learn about Microsoft apologists, based on anecdotes. In the example above we see yet more of that pattern of shameless copying without attribution — the same sort of pattern we see a lot of at Microsoft (we gave many examples over the years) and a lot of Windows users. In GNU/Linux, copying is usually done legally and even encouraged. The smear which is hard to just get over is that, according to Microsoft, Linux is a cancer that disrespects so-called ‘intellectual’ ‘property’. The reality is exactly the opposite if tackled from another angle. In GNU/Linux we share knowledge, respecting this so-called ‘property’ of society and sharing intellect among ourselves for the benefit of education. Microsoft, on the other, impedes sharing of knowledge, choosing collusion and litigation instead. What does that really tell us about Microsoft? We’ll address Microsoft’s thuggish behaviour in the next few posts. We really need to reverse Microsoft’s propaganda and have people see that it ought to be used against Microsoft (and Apple), not for it.

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