Richard Stallman's article on Bill Gates leaving Microsoft

    The following is a translation of the article “It's not the Gates, it's the bars” written by Richard Stallman, Founder of the Free Software Foundation, after Bill Gates left Microsoft for a wide audience of news publication.

    Attracting so much attention to Bill Gates's retirement does not make sense. In fact, another thing is important, it is not Gates, and not Microsoft, you need to pay attention to the unethical system of restrictions that Microsoft, like many other software companies, imposes on its customers.

    This statement may surprise you, since most computer enthusiasts have a warm feeling for Microsoft. Businessmen and their tamed politicians admire the company's success in building an empire that affects so many computer users.

    Many outside the computer world credit Microsoft with things that the company has skillfully taken advantage of, such as cheaper and faster computers, and the creation of a convenient graphical user interface.

    Gates' charitable work, his donations to the development of medicine in the poor countries of the world, also won the good location of some people. And the Los Angeles Times reported that its fund spends only five to ten percent of Gates's funds annually, and invests the rest - sometimes in companies that are the cause of environmental degradation and disease in the same poor countries.

    But there are many computer scientists who hate Gates and Microsoft. And they have a reason.


    Microsoft systematically violates antitrust laws, for which it has already been convicted three times. George W. Bush, who released the company from the hook of justice after his second conviction in the United States, was invited to Microsoft headquarters to receive funds for his two-thousand-year campaign.

    Many users hate the so-called “Microsoft taxes,” retail contracts that require users to pay for Windows on a computer, even if they don’t use it. In some countries, compensation can still be obtained, but considerable effort is required to do this.

    There is also such a thing as Digital Restrictions Management: software features designed to limit the user's free access to their own files. Increased user restrictions seem to be major innovations in Vista.

    Free incompatibilities.

    All kinds of incompatibilities and obstacles for interacting with third-party programs are included as a free bonus. That is why the European Union has demanded that Microsoft publish interface specifications. This year, Microsoft pushed its people into national standards committees to buy the approval of its bulky, unrealizable, and patented “open standard” for documents at the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). The EU is now investigating this matter.

    Of course, no one will tolerate such antics, but these are not isolated or random events. These are systematic symptoms of a big mistake that most people cannot recognize: Proprietary Software.

    Microsoft programs are distributed under licenses that separate people and make them helpless. Users are separated because they are not allowed to share copies with anyone. Users are helpless because they have no source code that programmers could read and modify. If you are a programmer, and you want to change something in the program for yourself or for someone else, you cannot do this. If you are a business representative, and you want to pay a programmer to finalize the program so that it better suits your requirements, you cannot do this. And if you copy the program to share with a friend, which is essentially a simple manifestation of good neighborliness, you will be called a pirate.

    Unfair system.

    Microsoft wants to make us believe that helping our neighbor is akin to hijacking ships.

    The most important thing Microsoft has done is to promote this unfair social system.

    Gates is personally responsible for this, to blame for his notorious "open letter", which condemned the exchange of copies of programs between users of microcomputers.

    In fact, it (the letter) said: “If you do not let me keep you divided and helpless, I will not write programs, and you will not have any programs. Submit to me, or lose! ”

    Change the system.

    But Gates has not only invented proprietary software; thousands of other companies are doing the same. And it’s wrong whoever does this. Microsoft, Apple, Adobe and others offer you programs that give them power over you. And the change of company names in this case does not matter.

    This is why there is a free software movement. Free means Free: we write and release software that users are free to distribute and modify.

    We do this systematically, for the sake of freedom; some of us are even paid for it, many work as volunteers. And we already have ready-made free operating systems, including GNU / Linux.

    Our goal: to provide a full range of useful free programs so that no computer user is tempted to give up their freedom to receive any programs.

    In 1984, when I started the Free Software movement, I hardly realized the meaning of Gates' letter. But I heard similar opinions from others, and I had an answer for them: “If your programs will make us divided and helpless, please do not write them. We would be better off without them. We will find other ways to use our computers, and preserve our freedom. ”

    In 1992, when the GNU operating system completed the appearance of the kernel, Linux, you had to be a wizard to use it. Today, the GNU / Linux operating system is user friendly: in Spain and India, this is the standard in schools. Tens of millions use it all over the world. You can use it too.

    Gates may have left, but the walls and boundaries of the proprietary software that he helped create were still there.

    Their dismantling is up to us.

    Richard Stallman is the founder of the Free Software Foundation. You can freely copy and distribute this article under a Creative Commons Noderivs license.

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