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You are here: Home Blogs RMS RMS article: "Install fests: What to do about the deal with the devil"

RMS article: "Install fests: What to do about the deal with the devil"

by Jeanne Rasata Contributions Published on Mar 19, 2019 03:23 PM

In "Install fests: What to do about the deal with the devil," Richard Stallman issues both a caveat to free software novices who would like to transition to using free software exclusively via an install fest, and a plea to install-fest organizers and volunteers not to make injurious ethical decisions for the people availing themselves of their help.

Stallman explains that, because of obstacles deliberately devised to thwart back engineering, not all computers can function properly with a completely free distro. And that a choice, therefore, often has to be made, between freedom and convenience, between installing a fully free distro that won't function as intended, and installing a nonfree distro that will. He argues that this choice should be made by the informed user alone, not silently by the install-fest volunteer.

Stallman appeals to install fests to forgo the "tacit deal with the devil" that suppresses the free software movement's message about freedom and justice, and to take advantage of the teachable moment, to introduce the user to the "moral dimension" of their computing choices. He suggests a number of things an install fest could do (implement visual demarcations that help users understand when they're about to "forfeit their freedom," give technical advice regarding free software and free hardware, encourage users to lobby offending manufacturers) in order to "retain full moral authority when it talks about the imperative for freedom." Better the devil you know than the devil you don't, and, ultimately, better no devil at all.

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