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Starting my internship at the FSF

by John Sullivan Contributions Published on Jun 23, 2009 05:20 PM
We're happy to welcome Sarah, joining us as part of our newly launched internship program. More information about the program is at http://fsf.org/volunteer/internships.

by Sarah Adelaida McIntire
FSF Campaigns Intern

I am one of the Free Software Foundation's newest interns, which is a little surprising because less than a year ago, I didn't even know what an operating system was. While interning here, I hope to help myself and others to become more educated about free software. I also hope to introduce free software as something that is very accessible, easy to use, and most importantly, as something that does not restrict users' freedoms.

As I mentioned earlier, I did not know what an operating system was less than a year ago, so as you probably can guess, free software and the ideas behind the Free Software Foundation are also fairly new to me. Actually, the term "free software" wasn't even in my vocabulary last October. Basically, the only word in my vocabulary even remotely surrounding free software was "Linux". I only attributed "Linux" to something that was impossibly hard to understand and used by angry techno geeks. I knew these "geeks" using Linux hated Microsoft. I could not understand this. Microsoft is everywhere, so why would anyone hate Microsoft? I thought it worked well enough.

After being introduced to a few GNU/Linux users, my views on Microsoft inevitably changed and my vocabulary was expanded after they gave me many thorough explanations of the reasons for the creation of GNU, the ideas the Free Software Foundation supports, and the problems proprietary software has created. After discovering this, I made a hesitant switch to GNU/Linux. I was afraid that because of my lack of computer skills, I was not going to be able to figure out how to use my computer, mess it all up, and not be able to take it back to the store for repair because removing Microsoft from my computer might waive my warranty.

To my great surprise, none of my fears were realized. I actually found that Ubuntu was easier to use than my old operating system, Vista. It had a cleaner interface, hardly ever crashed, and an incredible amount of benefits that were never offered by my old operating system. I was hooked and realized that my old stereotyped notions of GNU/Linux users were unfounded.

After learning about how proprietary software restricts my freedoms, and realizing that I am actually able to use free software, despite my painfully limited computer skills, I of course wanted to spread this information to others. This wish to help spread the knowledge of how our freedoms are restricted by proprietary software is how I found my way to an internship at the Free Software Foundation.

A lot of people, just like me less than a year ago, are completely ignorant of an alternative to proprietary software. Also, the level of general awareness about how our freedoms are restricted needs to change or else we will find ourselves cornered, and our freedoms limited even further. I hope I will be able to reach out to those who think, just as I did less than a year ago, that free software is not something just for techno geek geniuses. That it's not necessary to understand how a computer runs in order to use an operating system that does not restrict one's freedoms. That it is possible to understand how proprietary software restricts one's freedoms with basically no background in computers. It is my hope that I will relate to the computer user.

It is vitally important for our future, not only individually, but communally and culturally, to spread awareness about free software and the ideas motivating the Free Software Foundation. As an intern here, I will hopefully help raise awareness about the freedoms proprietary software restricts to a wider audience, while learning more about free software myself. The freedoms that are being stripped away from users are too great for so many people to continue to remain ignorant. I do not want to see my, or anyone else's freedoms restricted any longer.

I'll be helping out with FSF campaigns like LibrePlanet and Defective by Design. If you have ideas for how we can better reach out to people along the lines I've described, please write to me at campaigns@fsf.org.

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