Astroturf a la Redmond: Windows 7 Parties

While cleaning out the draft posts queue, I found this. The original article is a bit old, but the parties haven’t happened yet.

A recent TechFlash article discusses a Microsoft initiative for the upcoming Windows 7 release, describing it as a “Tupperware-style twist.” The idea is to encourage users, partners, and of course Microsoft employees to throw parties to show off Windows 7.

I see, as the title implies, what is essentially astroturfing at its worst. If Windows 7 were that great of an operating system, Microsoft would have people volunteering, or even paying Microsoft, to have these launch parties.

As far as my personal PCs go, I haven’t really looked back since the spring of 2002 (I didn’t write down the exact date, unfortunately) when I reformatted two different Windows 98 PCs and installed, at the time, the GNU/Linux distribution maintained by Red Hat on one (today’s equivalent would be the community-supported Fedora Project), and FreeBSD on the other. (Both of those PCs eventually wound up running Debian GNU/Linux years later.)

I do use a Windows XP laptop PC, which still has what I deem to be an unacceptable crash rate. By unacceptable, I mean it crashes at least five to ten times as often as the Debian GNU/Linux PC next to it which is at least most of a decade old. No, that’s not a mistake. Simply put, even with less than half the CPU and a fourth of the RAM, I get much better stability, even with the obvious reduction in performance. Put simply, Centerpoint Energy (our local electric utility) and the forces of nature responsible for thunderstorms force reboots of the Debian PC more often than any technical problems with Debian itself.

(Why haven’t I bought Apple’s products instead? Regular readers should know this, but I’ll provide a starting point for the new readers.)

Microsoft has still done next to zilch with regard to helping ensure the freedom of its customers. In fact, Microsoft has pretty much made itself the sworn enemy of the free software movement, with apparently no shame or regret. While Microsoft has made token efforts to contribute to the open source movement, it is very important to note that the ideals of the open source movement only encourage access to the source code for convenience and open source licenses do not always protect all the essential freedoms of users and programmers of the software released under them. It is also important to note that without the work of Richard Stallman and the FSF on the free software movement, there would be no free software movement for the open source movement to have splintered from.

Those readers unfamiliar with what I discuss above are encouraged to read some of Stallman’s essays, most notably these two: “Why Open Source misses the point of Free Software” and an earlier version “Why ‘Free Software’ is better than ‘Open Source'”.

Several of Microsoft’s licenses appear to have been intentionally worded to provide the illusion of freedom while in reality providing just the opposite. Most notably, these are the Limited Public License (Ms-LPL) and Limited Reciprocal License (Ms-LRL). Both of these licenses require that any modified versions of the original code must run on Microsoft’s Windows operating system. To those who value freedom on their own terms, not those of a large corporation with no particular incentive to be nice, this type of restriction is abhorrent.

In summary, my view is rather simple. Windows 7: same song, seventh verse, even bigger and even worse.