I propose two new software freedoms:
-2: The Freedom to run any hardware, for any purpose
-1: The Freedom to run proprietary software, to run any hardware.
These are two unspoken assumptions that I’ve never heard expressed before.
I don’t understand why people don’t want others have the freedom to install proprietary software on Linux system. I use both Linux and Windows. I enjoy running the latest and greatest games with the fastest video and sound cards.
I love how NVIDIA robustly supports Unix platforms, unlike Creative, whose sound cards are crippled under Linux. I require that my computer works with the hardware I bought for it.
I’m sick and tired of misguided free software enthusiasts applying free software principals to hardware. Yes, I think that as an individual tinkerer I should have the freedom to study and hack hardware that he owns, but hardware is not software. Hardware is a tangible thing. The structure of our laws protect tangible things more fiercely than ephemeral things, like software and ideas.
One of the original purpose of Free Software was to liberate hardware from the limitations of its software by protecting the freedom of the user. However, Stallman’s philosophy of “doing without [the hardware and] supporting a project to develop a free replacement” ignores the fact this limits the users freedom. It presupposes that the user can go without the hardware. It assumes that the user has the ability to support a free alternative with time, money or programing skills. And it assumes that that the user values liberated software more than using the hardware itself.
Hardware is worthless if it does not work. If I bought a watch that did not keep accurate time, I would return it. If I bought a video card that a vendor supports in Linux, I should be able to use that driver, and my distribution should help me obtain this proprietary driver without violating the GPL.
This is my computer, and it is my choice.
Thanks to Keven Miller for inspiring this blog post.