Apple or Ubuntu

M. Fioretti mfioretti at
Tue Sep 18 05:58:25 UTC 2007

On Mon, Sep 17, 2007 18:00:25 PM +0100, Colin Watson
(cjwatson at wrote:

> > Absolutely right (see #6 of A
> > very interesting and important corollary of this fact is that it
> > makes no sense today to promote Free Software with the "you can
> > study and fix the source code yourself!" argument. It's
> > counterproductive, actually: you are telling people they can do
> > (or give the feeling they may _need to do) something most of them
> > couldn't care less about and would probably pay to _not_ do.
> The best approach isn't to say "*you* can study and fix the source
> code yourself", but "you can get somebody local to study and fix the
> source code for you rather than having to wait for a faceless
> corporation to do it".

This is a very good argument for local politicians or small/medium
businesses, as it also creates local jobs which cannot be outsorced. I
do point it out in the Family Guide, actually.

I had not mentioned it only simply because I understand that this
specific discussion is about individuals, i.e. single end users who in
practice are almost never going to do something like that.

> > it may be useful for the OP to try answering it from the above
> > point of view, that is end-user data ownership: in other words,
> > after you have heavily used and customized Apple OS for one year,
> > doing everything it lets you do... are you Free to move all the
> > files you produced with that Mac (text, video, anything) and all
> > your *configuration* data (email provider, bookmarks...) to
> > another computer and OS without lots of reverse-engineering?
> > 
> > This would be an area where Linux has an edge which is really
> > relevant to end users.
> Psychological OS lock-in is certainly a major factor; changing
> operating systems can be hard work.

Sorry, but I'm not talking of psychological lock-in, I'm talking of
real, hard problems which have nothing (intrinsically) to do with the
OS: if you have many hours of video in proprietary codecs, for
example, or hundreds of excel/word files with macros, you'll have a
very hard time to not lose all those data. This is concrete, not
psychological lock-in. But it depends on the formats, not on the OS or
its license. Not just the format of documents, but also of
configuration data for this or that application.

> heck, non-Debian-derived would be hard work - just because I've been
> using it so long and have built up so many of my habits around
> it.[1] This isn't because Linux is doing evil proprietary lock-in,
> but because habits are hard to break. I think that aspect of it is
> at least as strong for Apple users as any application lock-in
> effect.

This aspect of the problem is relevant only if you can really start
from scratch, that is if you never did anything relevant with a
computer before, or you don't need anymore all the *produced* with the
old environment. This is a common fallacy of many pro-FOSS migration
talks: they more or less implicitly assume that the audience popped
out of nowhere, that people are much more locked by past or external
documents than by interfaces.

There are many private and small business users who _want_ to change,
but cannot do it only because of formats. I can be eager to migrate to
FOSS as much as I want, but if, in order to eat, I have to exchange
with customers and suppliers large spredsheets with MS Office macros
or Publisher files (just to name two in thousands of practical


Help *everybody* love Free Standards and Free Software

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