[sf-lug] e.g.: mastering CDs in bulk for Software Freedom Day

Michael Paoli Michael.Paoli at cal.berkeley.edu
Fri Sep 11 04:36:18 PDT 2009

Well, many excellent points/"arguments"/suppositions have been made
regarding the "mastering CDs in bulk for Software Freedom Day" "thread"
and related, with much spirited and interesting debate.

A few points/arguments - to perhaps reiterate a bit ... and maybe

Let's try a little Gedanken experiment (heck, easier and faster than
trying to gather lots of actual hard data - and may also be useful
nevertheless).  Let's suppose "we" (or someone, or whomever) gives away
a bunch of CDs (or DVD+-RW or USB sticks or installs or preloads it onto
systems or what have you) of software for, oh, Microsoft Windows or some
other non-Open Source Operating System (OS).  Now, let's just say,
theoretically, that what's loaded/added on there is a whole bunch of
highly useful Open Source software that gives users all the software
that they'd want on their computers that they'd otherwise go out and get
(e.g. purchase Microsoft Office) non-Open Source software (applications)
to place upon their computers.  Let's also suppose - at least
theoretically, that the Open Source stuff is so good and complete that
the users have no interest in adding any non-Open Source
software/applications atop their non-Open Source OS - and let's further
say they get rather to quite comfortable and happy with that.  Now let's
say it gets to be time for user to do a major upgrade or replacement of
their non-Open Source OS (e.g. buying new computer).  Let's further say
it's readily available and well known to the users, that they can
very easily get and install or have installed for free, a free (gratis)
Open Source OS that would be exceedingly compatible with all the
application software they've come to care about anyway (having
discovered all that great Open Source (and free as in gratis) software).
Or, ... they could alternatively, at such a time, spend a significant
amount (let's say $100.00 USD or more) to purchase non-Open Source
software to run the same Open Source applications.  And let's further
say, that things were completely - at least from the user perspective -
compatible, such that they'd see absolutely no reason to go and spend
the money for some non-Open Source OS, when they could even better (no
cost) get an Open Source OS that would serve their needs better from
the user's perspective (e.g. at that point about the only key difference
user would see and particularly notice would be cost of about $100.00
USD or more).  So, ... theoretically, let's say all that happens - in
such case, wouldn't users be quite likely to switch from non-Open
Source OS to Open Source OS? ... at least when it came to replacements
or major upgrades where they'd have to spend a fair bit if they wanted
to continue with a non-Open Source OS?

Anyway, that's the (or at least a) theory - would - at least eventually,
increase adoption of Open Source OSes.  "Of course" there are also at
least some counter-arguments.  E.g. gee, wouldn't having all that great
Open Source software on non-Open Source OS potentially significantly
delay user's exodus from non-Open Source OS by quite significantly
reducing the pain and frustration (and cost) users experience on
non-Open Source OS?  Perhaps.

In any case, getting a fair bit closer to reality, how much great Open
Source software that could be provided and would quite effectively
replace non-Open Source software that users would otherwise generally
use on their non-Open Source OS is, well, ... sure, there's lots of
great Open Source software, but not so much as to be very much a
transparent drop-in replacement for all the non-Open Source software
users are typically using (though Open Source software can provide quite
a bit of that - and often in not-quite-so-compatible, yet often
generally superior ways).  Of course a whole other debate would be how
compatible such Open Source software should be developed to be (e.g.
would one want to develop highly accurate emulation of all the
mis-features, bugs, etc. in the non-Open Source software?).

So, ... anyway, rather to quite debatable how useful it is to provide
users Open Source software for non-Open Source OSes in an effort to
attempt to get them to migrate off of non-Open Source OSes ... or even
if that is useful at all.

I'm sure opinions do vary a lot ... I think I'd argue it's at least
somewhat useful, ... but how useful, and how relatively useful or not to
put resources there as opposed to other areas (e.g. promoting and/or
generally making available and helping folks with Open Source OSes) -
well, ... that's a debate I think I'll avoid stepping into (has been
debated pretty well already anyway).

Another (semi-?)related point is just what folks want to do with their
resources (time, cost) in providing for free (gratis) software (be it
Open Source OSes, or Open Source applications for non-Open Source OSes).
Especially when talking volunteer resources, folks will tend to want to
do what they're good at, familiar with, enjoy, etc., and what they think
will be useful, or more/most useful.  That may, or may not correlate to
some particular "objective" - particularly if such "objective" might be
something other than what they themselves may be personally aiming for
or considering to be most/more important.  Might also depend quite a bit
on their chosen target "audience" - e.g. users showing up at LUG
meetings and Linux installfests would be a rather different target
audience, than, say, a certain collection of users (e.g. some particular
school or business or institution) that requires all their users have
some certain non-Open Source OS installed on their computers.

"mastering CDs in bulk for Software Freedom Day" "thread" and
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