A new postdoc student arrived at our department this semester, and after learning that he uses GNU/Linux for all his computing, I invited him along to TFUG. During some of our meetings people asked “how could I do X on my GNU/Linux desktop?” and, jokingly, the postdoc would respond “the answer to your question is ‘do you really need to do that?’” Sometimes the more experienced GNU/Linux users at the table would respond to questions by suggesting that the user should simply give up on doing X, and the postdoc would slap his thigh and laugh and say “see? I told you that’s the answer!”

The phenomenon here is that people who have at some point made a commitment to at least try to use GNU/Linux for all their computing quickly find that they have come to value using GNU/Linux more than they value engaging in certain activities that only work well/at all under a proprietary operating system. I think that this is because they get used to being treated with respect by their computer. And indeed, one of the reasons I’ve almost entirely given up on computer gaming is that computer games are non-free software. “Are you sure you need to do that?” starts sounding like a genuine question rather than simply a polite way of saying that what someone wants to do can’t be achieved.

I suggest that this is a blessing in disguise. The majority of the things that you can only do under a proprietary operating system are things that it would be good for you if you were to switch them out for other activities. I’m not suggesting that switching to a GNU/Linux is a good way to give up on the entertainment industry. It’s a good way of moderating your engagement with the entertainment industry. Rather than logging onto Netflix, you might instead pop in a DVD of a movie. You can still engage with contemporary popular culture, but the technical barriers give you an opportunity to moderate your consumption: once you’ve finished watching the movie, the software won’t try to get you to watch something else by making a calculation as to what you’re most likely to assent to watching next based on what you’ve watched before. For this behaviour of the Netflix software is just another example of non-free software working against its user’s interests: watching a movie is good for you, but binge-watching a TV series probably isn’t. In cases like this, living in the world of Free Software makes it easier to engage with media healthily.

I really appreciate that your blog is entirely text. That allows me to easily view it on my pi. I used to go to websites with lots of pictures and videos, opening up multiple tabs without a care in the world. I’ve now realized that I don’t need to do that….

-Mike

P.S. I was able to (eventually) leave a comment, so I guess this will not be on my “don’t need to do” list.

Comment by mjzenz Wed 28 Sep 2016 21:26:11 UTC

Netflix works fine in Fx on a debian desktop btw - look up pipelight.

PS What’s a DVD? :P

Comment by jgh Wed 28 Sep 2016 21:51:08 UTC
jgh: is that free softwar? Even if it is, and my information is out-of-date, I think the point I make still stands. Just substitute for something else that is, at present, harder/impossible to do under GNU/Linux.
Comment by spwhitton Sat 01 Oct 2016 14:27:47 UTC

Really nice. I enjoy reading someone from the other side of the globe saying things I would say, and - of course - teaching me some things I did not know. Cool! I am not a gamer, but I do watch some Netflix (inside GNU/Linux, mainly with Chrome since “they” make harder for Firefox, my favorite browser ever, to work perfectly for that purpose). Nevertheless, I am using GNU/Linux at home and at the university, and spread it to my coworkers and students (20 PCs total), cause FLOSS allow us to do the job we have to do. No need to use proprietary software, despite the boycott from m$ in their office-non-compatibilty-friendly files. GNU/Linux, Libreoffce, Firefox and Thnunderbird, GIMP, QGIS… they do the job for us very fine. They rocl! ;-)

Comment by gonzalo_vc Mon 03 Oct 2016 12:32:39 UTC

Really nice. I enjoy reading someone from the other side of the globe saying things I would say, and - of course - teaching me some things I did not know. Cool! I am not a gamer, but I do watch some Netflix (inside GNU/Linux, mainly with Chrome since “they” make harder for Firefox, my favorite browser ever, to work perfectly for that purpose). Nevertheless, I am using GNU/Linux at home and at the university, and spread it to my coworkers and students (20 PCs total), cause FLOSS allow us to do the job we have to do. No need to use proprietary software, despite the boycott from m$ in their office-non-compatibilty-friendly files. GNU/Linux, Libreoffce, Firefox and Thnunderbird, GIMP, QGIS… they do the job for us very fine. They rock! ;-)

Comment by gonzalo_vc Mon 03 Oct 2016 12:32:50 UTC

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