Monday, July 13, 2009


The Importance of Freedom

One of the most important and fundamental aspects of using computers is choice. The simple ability of the customer to choose which hardware and software they want. Not too long ago you would go out and buy a 'Brand System' from a manufacturer like a Commodore Amiga or an Apple Macintosh and you would just use the operating system that came with it. Often you had to buy additional peripherals such as printers or external floppy drives from that same manufacturer. Basically your only choice was the manufacturer. There were a few third-party manufacturers who would also build devices which could work on your Amiga but there was a great deal of manufacturer lock-in.

Nowadays we have more choice and also less choice. Long gone are the Atari and Commodore computers. Also gone are GEM, AmigaDOS and (for the most part) the BeOS operating system. Where we have greater choice is at the component level. One can go online and buy tons of different hardware on ebay or tigerdirect. One can choose which video card, hard drive, and motherboard they want from a number of different manufacturers, used or new.

With the rise of FOSS (Free Open Source Software) one now has the additional choice of an open or closed source operating system. For many computer users the importance of this choice is stifled. When one goes into a brick and mortar computer store they don't have the luxury of choosing their operating system, you get Microsoft Windows. Of course the tech-savvy user is free to erase Windows and put Linux or FreeBSD on there. The point remains that the manufacturers and retailers have gone with a 'one size fits all' solution and kowtowing to Microsoft is still the rule of the day.

Can I go into a Staples store and buy a Linux netbook? No. Can I go into Staples and get a Linux based PDA? Nope. Can I go into any store in Canada and get a Linux based computer? The answer is no, not in a traditional store (at least I haven't found one yet). Occasionally I see devices like the Sharp Zaurus SL-5500 on ebay but I don't think Sharp Canada carries them. The only real choice for the Linux enthusiast is to go online to sites like Linux Devices and do some research.


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