The state of the free software movement


Free and open source software, which in general can be used, modified and customized without restriction, has made impressive inroads since the movement got its start in the early 1980’s.

But free software still has a ways to go when it comes to winning the hearts and minds of average computers users.

Guest: Benjamin Mako Hill, MIT Sloan School of Management & Free Software Foundation

6 Responses to “The state of the free software movement”

  1. Nicholas Brown says:


    No podcast for ‘The state of the free software movement’?

    I listen to them all.


    Nicholas Brown.

  2. lefty.crupps says:

    Thank you Mr Gordon for finally, after years of requests, covering FLOSS in an even handed manner — that is, not ignoring it entirely for the majority of an episode, or only mentioning its shortcomings when it does come up (which all software has, by the way).

    I’ve used Linux on all of my computers for over 5 years now, and the improvements over those five years are incredible.

    Very few people know about the Linux OS, sticking to the Windows that comes with their computers. Until this changes or people get fed up with being bitten by software- and vendor-lock-in (the old, “I NEED application XYZ! Its the only thing that will open the files i created with it!”), GNU/Linux may not move as fast as its supporters would like but at least it is making inroads.

    I will no longer support the myriad of issues with a Windows computer for free. I will support the Linux issues because they’re pretty rare, but Windows (even Win Vista and Win 7) have too much lock-in (as does Apple OSX, more maybe) and too many security issues (in Microsoft software). I am done with them. It is good to hear that you’re looking into alternatives as well.

  3. Jon Gordon says:

    Podcast fixed now. Thanks for letting me know.

  4. Darren says:

    I have been using linux for 3 years now. I love it…it is so much cooler than windows. I am just an average user with no technical training, I have been able to figure most everything out with the os. It always brings me joy, and the greatest part is I have never had a crash with using linux.

  5. StealthGeek says:

    In regards to the “bewildering” issue when faced with different versions of Linux, consider this:

    Do you like cheese? Do you like hard cheeses or soft cheeses? Smelly or bland? Stilton or Parmigiano Reggiano? Brie? Cheddar? Goat?

    How about tomatoes? Grape, Cherry or Heirloom? Organic or Mass produced?

    Maybe books? Action? Mystery? Romance? Non-fiction?

    And so on.

    John, the varieties of Linux are like cheeses or tomatoes or books or wines or any other thing that is interesting enough to be rich and varied. I suppose the fear of technology keeps people from thinking clearly about their computers and other devices. After 20 years I’m still surprised at how readily the minds of otherwise intelligent and adaptable people shut down when faced with technology that’s off the beaten path. Why? It’s no different than learning about the different kinds of cheese. And just as a person might discover that they prefer a smoked gouda to processed cheese food, they might also discover that they prefer Ubuntu to Windows Vista.

    Please stop perpetuating the “technology is really hard” myth, and tell it like it is. If people dreamed it up and implemented it, other people can understand it. No need to be afraid. And just like wine, people may discover that they prefer a Pinot Noir to a White Zinfandel. Or Sam Adams to Budweiser.

    Patronizing doesn’t help anyone.



  6. Barry says:

    Anyone that thinks that the Linux user interface is as good as MAC or Windows is deluding themselves.

    Yes, it has come a long way, but expecting people to open a terminal window and type in commands that start “sudo apt-get install ” to install software or a device driver is just not realistic.

    I like Linux, and have used it it for many years, but the terminal window should not be used for ANYTHING that could be expected to be handled by a home user. I was so frustrated with it I even created a facebook group called Linux users against the linux terminal.

    Lets get some people involved that actually consider the non-technical users and perhaps we can move Linux into the mainstream and create something that computer manufacturers could provide on their machines without driving their support costs through the roof.