Would a Real Free Software Developer Group Bite Apple Like FSF Did?

I’ve been installing free software for library cataloguing onto Apples recently. It’s not been great (GNU/Linux is still easier and faster, in my opinion) but it has worked much better than older Macs.

As well as making servers that are finally getting easier, Apple lead the way in locked-down portable players, with their iPod and iPhone devices and iTunes service. Quite rightly, free software users campaign against Apple’s use of DRM/TPM (Technical Protection Measures). One of the rallying points has been Defective by Design (DbD), an FSF initiative since 2006. Long-time readers may remember that I took part in a DbD protest at an Apple Store in September 2006:-

“I noticed the huge till queue, which was attractive for three reasons: it had no security (I guess shoplifters rarely queue for the till), most of them are standing around waiting for something to read and they are almost certainly Apple customers, so who better to inform? After I rejoined the back of the queue a few times, a security man was watching it, so I moved off and chatted to people waiting to do hands-on tests on the upper floor for a bit […] then I moved back to leaflet the till queue again. […] Then, I got a bit bored and started putting the leaflets into Apple’s product leaflet dispensers (in front of Apple’s – no leaflets were removed), which soon got me rumbled.”

To me, that was fine: I dislike that type of store, which tries to look like public space, but is actually privatised and controlled. My resource use was minimal (one security man escorting me out and some Saturday kid probably “cleaned” the leaflet racks) but I passed information to many Apple customers, who are one of only two groups Apple must keep happy, ultimately.

Popey is a bit upset by the latest protest idea, which he describes as:-

“urging people to book slots at the Apple in-store “Genius Bar” to ask probing questions which they already know the answer to about their company policy on DRM and Free software. The ‘Genius Bar’ is an official Apple support avenue for their customers, and is a service provided inside many of their stores.”

It’s also been criticised by neuro and Pete along similar lines.

I agree. It’s wasting both side’s resources. Apple don’t really need to keep their staff happy (they can hire new staff) and it offends Apple customers and shareholders. It’s not even efficient: each unit of Apple employee time wasted costs a unit of DbyD worker time and who’s got the most resources there? What are FSF thinking? It’s stupid, even without the bad press it’s had.

So, this brings me in a roundabout way to answering

“I am aware of the Linux Foundation and the FSF and others, but how does SPI differentiate itself and its goals from those organizations?”

from why people don’t join SPI. In my opinion, a key difference of Software in the Public Interest is that it is managed by free software developers in a more-or-less democratic fashion. Even though I’ve failed in two elections, I still think it’s better than the alternatives. No project as unpopular as wasting Apple Store helpdesk time would ever get backed by SPI, would it?

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