10.03.20

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The Fata Morgana of ‘Winning’ the GNU/Linux or Software Freedom Battle

Posted in DRM, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft at 4:36 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

We may be further away than we realise, depending on what our true goal is (and all along has been)

Fata Morgana of a boat

Summary: Many concessions are being made and compromises accepted/celebrated in the name of “market share”; “World domination” without freedom, however, sort of defeats the very purpose of the GNU Project, which became GNU/Linux in the 1990s

THE SUBJECT of DRM inside (GNU/)Linux is a difficult one. We’ll separate GNU from Linux for discussion’s sake, as DRM mostly or only impacts the latter. We see it in Steam, we see it in EME (even Mozilla Firefox has that now!), and it’s often disguised using all sorts of cryptic — at least to most people — acronyms. Last year when we studied the extent of DRM inside Linux we needed to search not for “DRM” but for other terms. We found that companies like Google, AMD and Intel played a considerable role in this agenda. That is, at the kernel level (not DRM at the application level, e.g. Steam and Chrome/Firefox). Google does this at all levels, as does Netflix (especially Web-related things), whereas Microsoft is still treated with greater suspicion (Linux folks watch closely as it puts proprietary software extensions inside Linux).

“Linux itself is everywhere, but those latest platforms, managed if not monopolised by Google, are DRM prisons.”A lot of people ‘joined the club’ or hopped on the GNU/Linux bandwagon back in the 1980s (before Linux) and most of them were geeky developers with a passion for programming and UNIX/POSIX. Later on came the ‘lesser geeks’, who could set up a system like Slackware and later on Mandriva, Ubuntu and so on. Nowadays many “Linux” users are just Android or Chrome (OS/Book/Cast) users. Linux itself is everywhere, but those latest platforms, managed if not monopolised by Google, are DRM prisons. Down to the hardware level.

The evolution of Free software seems to be something along the lines of, first it’s about liberating people from proprietary UNIX (or older systems, legacy systems, expensive and restrictive systems), then it’s about replacing Windows (which peaked around the “XP” days), and now it’s about a zero-cost drop-in replacement at the server- and client-side node. That’s why Google loves GNU and Linux so much (albeit not the GPL; Google just barely tolerates it and occasionally tries to find substitutes for it).

“Does the world suit or gradually adapt to copyleft? Or are we seeing an inverted (reverse) trend with the tentacles of Microsoft’s GitHub holding onto key projects? GitHub is supported by Google, IBM, Facebook and so many other technology giants. Why are they helping a Microsoft monopoly?”In the coming years those of us who value software freedom will need to discuss those otherwise-ignored issues. “World domination” for the sake of “market share” alone can overlook what we’re trying to actually accomplish and whether we’re being assimilated instead of actually changing the world. Who suits who? Does the world suit or gradually adapt to copyleft? Or are we seeing an inverted (reverse) trend with the tentacles of Microsoft’s GitHub holding onto key projects? GitHub is supported by Google, IBM, Facebook and so many other technology giants. Why are they helping a Microsoft-led monopoly with direct NSA access?

Fata Morgana Manhattan BeachThose aren’t easy issues to tackle because too many people are blinded by the fata morgana of “market share”; so we get things like telemetry, stores and “apps” with DRM. This isn’t freedom; it’s surrender or assimilation to the very things we’re meant to replace.

The fight or the cause of Free software won’t end with the collapse of Microsoft (or both Microsoft and Apple); the attack surface is changing and we now have a multi-faceted threat, ranging from licensing to DRM and even surveillance aspects (e.g. “LINUX” devices that are in fact bugs or listening devices — the trends whose nature we must ferociously combat).

“In the United States, a government-subsidised (CIA seed funding, Pentagon budget and so on) technology nexus is both repressive and dishonest.”Software freedom is strongly disliked and endlessly opposed by those striving to put back doors in everything; tyrants and autocratic regimes won’t allow software which empowers ‘their’ people; such software is designed to shift the power dynamics, so it’s inherently an ‘underground’ endeavour in oppressive nations. In the United States, a government-subsidised (CIA seed funding, Pentagon budget and so on) technology nexus is both repressive and dishonest. They all claim to be trying to make the world a better place (less sexist, less racist), but in practice they’re imperialistic, deeply intolerant, and strongly connected to the state. They won’t ever surrender to Free software; not without a fight.

Attribution for photos: Brocken Inaglory and Modiddy (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported)

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