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I'll Use Linux When $App Magically Appears

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I'm sure you've seen this is as often as I have, even from supposed Free Software advocates: "I can't switch completely to Linux now because I still need this $foo application. When a free alternative appears then I'll switch."

They may or may not be sincere; they are certainly missing the point. Because it's not enough to just sit around and wait for the Magic Software Fairy to deliver your perfect applications with all the bells and whistles for free.

Shush Please

But first, a brief rant. Ever notice how the same ill-informed Linux and FOSS criticisms appear over and over, like bad smells? Silly nonsense like no accountability, or "throat to choke" as it is so charmingly said, no support, scary legal risks, can't rely on hobbyists, and so on. It drives me nuts because I know they're spouting third-hand ignorant guff and don't really know anything.

Like a lot of Linux users, I am fluent in Linux and Windows, and used to speak good Mac as well. I'm not up-to-date on OS X, but you know what-- it wouldn't take me long to get up to speed, and I certainly wouldn't waste my time and insult readers' intelligence by spouting nonsense about it. I chose Linux as my primary computing platform based on informed comparisons. I wish the Windows partisans would return the favor, and shush when they don't know what they're talking about. What a quiet Internet it would be....

Free tip: Nobody cares if you use Linux/FOSS. Use it, don't use, just please spare us the windy blather.

Making the Future Happen

Migrating away from Windows or some other platform to Linux varies in difficulty, depending on what a person needs to do. The more complex the migration, the more a long-term plan makes it possible and least-painful. Sometimes it's a small decision, like figuring out how to run a Linux PC without using the closed, proprietary Nvidia video drivers. I used Nvidia cards for several years because I enjoy some games that require 3D acceleration. But I had a plan--I kept waiting and watching for an alternative, and now I have some ATI cards that use GPL drivers. They're included in all the distros that I use, and they install and configure a lot more easily than the Nvidia drivers did, which were always a pain. There wasn't a lot I could do to make this happen, though I did write to AMD/ATI a couple of times encouraging them nicely to support Linux. And now they have a customer.

The last bit of proprietary software on my system (that I know of) is Adobe Flash. That's a tough one; my whole job is living on the Web. Try Web surfing dozens of different sites without Flash-- it might shock you how much the modern Web depends on dratted Flash. I keep trying Gnash and SWfdec. They work on some sites, but not all of them. So I need to support the Gnash and SWfdec projects and help them mature. Gnash is on the FSF's High Priority Free Software Projects list.

Those are very small examples, the idea is to help make the future happen. Don't just wait for someone to develop what you need. If your business relies on a certain important piece of software, there is probably a FOSS alternative. If it isn't quite what you need, support it and help it become more useful. You're building your own escape from lock-in, overpriced restrictive licenses, and insane EULAs when you do that. FOSS is your ticket to controlling your own business systems and data.

Vote with your wallet. Every vote for Microsoft is a vote against FOSS. The poster child for this is Linux OEM PCs-- often the comparable Windows PC is the same price or cheaper, or has more and better hardware. Saving a few bucks in the short term pushes a truly competitive computer marketplace that much farther into the future. Let vendors know when they lost a sale because of this sort of tricksiness. Independent Linux OEM vendors are good to buy from because they don't have to dance the razor's edge of trying to please both Microsoft and their actual paying customers.

It's not always easy to balance immediate needs against longer-term goals. But as the saying goes, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Any progress is better than no progress.

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