On December 15, 2006, the FSF launched its BadVista.org campaign to advocate for the freedom of computer users, opposing adoption of Microsoft Windows Vista and promoting free -- as in freedom -- software alternatives. Two years later, the campaign has 7,000 registered activists, the name Vista is synonymous in the public eye with failure, and today we are declaring victory.
It is obvious that Vista has missed its window for widespread adoption. Individuals, governments, corporations, universities and organizations have largely taken a pass or even abandoned Microsoft entirely. The fact that Microsoft has repeatedly extended XP cutoff deadlines and is releasing a public beta of Windows 7 today is proof of Vista's failure.
Vista was Microsoft's largest ever product marketing launch. Estimated at a cost of $300M, those marketing dollars were spent in an effort to fool the media and user community about the goals of Vista. Thanks to all of you, we got the real message out and those dollars failed to win the day. Congratulations!
We are retiring the BadVista.org web site and ending the campaign in order to devote more effort and resources to new campaigns on the road toward a world in which all users can safely choose free software. Buoyed by this success, we will need all of you to continue lending your energy and creativity to this new work.
Today, there are three simple ways you can take action:
- Make a donation to join the Free Software Foundation as an associate member. If we can make our goal of 750 members (we have 332 already!) by the end of this month, we'll be in excellent shape to further our campaigns in 2009.
- Digg the announcement: Help get the word out that Windows 7 is no different from Vista in the ways that matter
- Subscribe to the Free Software Supporter, and stay informed about our work against Windows 7 and in favor of superior free software alternatives.
Peter, John, Matt and the BadVista.org team
If you put Microsoft at the center of your home entertainment system, be prepared to hand them the remote control, literally.
Following reports that digital television viewers were blocked from recording the new season of NBC's "Gladiators", Microsoft confirmed that it is preventing users from recording the show. They claim they were acting on behalf of NBC, and are in line with regulations set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), in disrupting computer usage based upon the so-called "broadcast flag" that was transmitted alongside the show.
A Microsoft spokesperson told CNET News, "...Windows Media Center fully adheres to the flags used by broadcasters and content owners to determine how their content is distributed and consumed."
What is the broadcast flag?
The broadcast flag is a sequence of information transmitted alongside television programs as a kind of digital order telling viewers to not do certain things, such as record the show or share it with a friend.
Many of the large media companies and the FCC tried to make obeying the broadcast flag a law. However, the Electronic Frontier Foundation took the FCC to court, and US Court of Appeals ruled that the FCC had exceeded its authority, and that no such law could exist. Despite this ruling, it appears that Microsoft has decided to work directly with media companies to implement these rules anyway, restricting how and when you watch television.
Building such a system is no trivial task. To do this, Microsoft has gone to great lengths to restrict users from saving a television program to their computers, we call this kind of functionality an "antifeature," because it takes more work for Microsoft to prevent the user from saving the program, than if they were to leave just the default behavior alone. So instead of letting you record programs as you normally would, it locks you out and deletes the show before you can save it.
However, Microsoft hasn't just made a little tweak to their software to do this -- they have compiled an entire system built upon antifeatures. This antifeature platform is integrated into their Windows Media software and forms the basis of their Windows Vista operating system, and they are working hard to convince companies like NBC, that Microsoft can be in control of how and when you get to watch television. As creepy and as ridiculous as it may sound, this is their business strategy, and by getting this control, both the television and movie industry and computer users will be tied to Microsoft software.
Don't be fooled into their claims that they are following regulations by the FCC -- the court ruled that the FCC has no power to make such regulations. This is also claimed as a measure just to stop unauthorized file sharing, yet what Microsoft is doing is trying to make sure that they are on every end of the market, from how it is delivered, to how you watch it. As Ars Technica reporter Jacqui Cheng puts it, this is not about Microsoft preventing people from sharing files without permission, "[i]t's about the ability to strictly control how we consume content".
Microsoft wants to have that control, and this software is the way they are trying to get it. Software that is designed in this way is known as 'DRM', which stands for 'Digital Rights Management', and yet it is really just another way to restriction how consumers interact with things on their own computers and devices. Because of this restriction, we refer to DRM as 'Digital Restrictions Management'.
The alternative to DRM: free software
By far the best way to avoid DRM, is to refuse to use software that is infected with it. Better yet, you should choose software that tries to do the opposite of DRM -- software that gives you complete control. This kind of software is called "free software," and it is based upon the idea that software carries certain freedoms to you:
The freedom to use the software for any reason you wish -- including to the ability to hit the save button when you* wish.
The freedom to examine how the software works and make changes, similar to a car engine -- you can remove the bugs or soup it up.
The freedom to share the software with your neighbor, like photocopying a newspaper article or sharing class notes with a classmate.
The freedom to share your modified software with other people, similar to how mathematics and science have worked for centuries.
Now you may not be a computer programmer, or know how to understand or change computer programs, but there are plenty of people out there who do, and they are likely already making the kinds of fixes and changes you'd like to see, or are often part of a community willing to make those changes for you.
There are thousands of free software programmers, and many thousands of free software programs, and even complete free software operating systems. You usually won't find annoying antifeatures in a program, and if there were one, you can rest assured that other programmers will have removed it by the time you get to use it.
Conversely, software that doesn't give you these freedoms is software you cannot control, and we think that kind of software doesn't belong on your computer. We say, 'free software, free society' -- with free software, if we are each in control of our machines, then we are all in control of how we use them and what we use them for.
And, don't let Apple fool you into thinking that they are the alternative to DRM and Microsoft, they, too have their own DRM schemes, and seek to control the world in their own way, from branding their DRM music player, to entrenching the world in their proprietary formats and DRM music purchasing programs.
The alternative to Windows and Apple is software that you control, software that is guaranteed to give you all of the freedoms you need to be in control. Free software.
There is a good chance you are already using free software, directly, such as using the Firefox web browser, or indirectly, by visiting a Web site that is sending you web pages with the Apache web-server. However, there are also entire, user-friendly operating systems that you can install on almost any laptop or desktop computer. So, if you are running Windows or Mac OS, consider replacing these with a free software based GNU/Linux operating system, such as gNewSense.
Using free software will take the control out of Microsoft's hands. With free software, you are in control.
: You can read Mako Hill's article on antifeatures, here: http://www.fsf.org/bulletin/2007/fall/antifeatures/
: It should be noted that this writer refers to a person that shares files as a "pirate," we think this is a bit of an extreme description that should be avoided. http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20080514-nbc-vista-copy-protection-snafu-reminds-us-why-drm-stinks.html
: gNewSense, a free software distribution of GNU/Linux http://www.gnewsense.org/
Microsoft Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1) is shipping and what we know so far is that it is incapable of running on many types of machines. In fact, Microsoft is being sued for putting stickers all over machines claiming that Vista could run on them, when in fact, it cannot. We recommend correcting this problem by covering up such stickers with a "GNU/Linux Inside!" sticker—if you make a purchase at our store or become an associate member we will send you some of these stickers.
If you were able to run Vista, you would find that it takes your general-purpose computer and makes it incapable of doing a lot of things you might want to do. In particular, it does not allow you control over your multimedia; it is incapable of allowing you to access your hardware, such as certain types of video cards, without restriction; and it is incapable of allowing you to control the third-party applications, data, and other files you download onto your machine.
Service Pack 1 does not change any of these facts about Vista, and it is in fact part and parcel of the same kind of behavior from Microsoft.
If you "upgrade" from Windows Vista to SP1, many of your third-party programs will just stop working. Furthermore, the updates only come from Microsoft, who gets to decide, without defining it, what terms like "spyware" used in their licenses mean. Even if you think you may have turned auto-updating off, Microsoft has made the decision, in the past, to decide that this is still at their discretion and will perform updates and deletions without asking you. Using Vista literally means handing over the keys to your computer.
If you don't want to continue running an "unsupported" Microsoft distribution and don't want to let the SP1 Trojan Horse into your home, then consider installing gNewSense or another all free software GNU/Linux distribution. It doesn't have to be time to discard your old computer and purchase a new one with a false sticker on it. Your current machine can likely run a free software GNU/Linux distribution, and you only have to make the switch once.
If you intend to make the switch, let others know by signing our petition to support free software for a free society.
- Campaign actions
Recently it emerged that Microsoft is removing the "kill switch" from Vista.
When you install Vista, Microsoft claims that you consent to being spied upon, through the "Windows Genuine Advantage" system. This system tries to identify instances of copying that Microsoft thinks are illegitimate. This system includes a "kill switch" which allows Microsoft to remotely deactivate your copy of Vista. This deactivation, whether deliberate or by accident -- as has been the case in some 500,000 cases already according to a study last year -- locks you out of your computer, and forces you to contact Microsoft to get access to your files.
While they may have now ostensibly removed the kill switch from Vista, they have not updated the hostile license they say you must agree to in order to use Vista. Vista still restricts your freedom, because freedom at the whim of someone else is not freedom.
Vista still enforces Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) -- technologies that companies like Disney, Warner, Netflix, Universal, Apple, Sony, Amazon, Fox and Microsoft are trying to impose on us all in order to have control over how our computers are used.
The public backlash that led to the kill switch in Vista being "removed" is a sign that people want software freedom. Today, Microsoft cannot offer people what they want. Thankfully, all is not lost -- free software distributions of the GNU/Linux operating system offer that freedom today. One lesson we should all take from this is that if we speak loudly enough, and demand software freedom, it can have results. But we also shouldn't be fooled -- Microsoft has just hidden the kill switch behind its back, still claiming the authority to use it. More pressure is still needed, and the only thing that will work in the end is for Microsoft to release their software under a license that respects the freedom of computer users.
Word is out that Windows Vista Service Pack 1 is in Beta mode. Reviewers mention that it is relatively unchanged, i.e., it is still running as a giant piece of proprietary malware, but, that it is running a little bit faster (one report takes a shot at it claiming that it is almost as fast as Windows 98). Unfortunately, Service Pack 1 still leaves Vista designed to restrict what users can do with their software.
So, my advice is: don't wait for Service Pack 1. Despite the free software worlds constant battle to acquire hardware specifications (often reverse engineering them) in order to develop free software drivers, GNU/Linux still supports far more hardware than Vista ever will. One of the reasons for this is because Vista needs certain hardware requirements to implement Digital Restrictions Management schemes and Trusted Computing schemes so that the hardware and the software can restrict how you can use your software, your data, and all of your multi-media content. I'm not sure you can run GNU/Linux on a shoebox, but you certainly don't need a top of the line machine like Vista requires. Most distributions run on anything from your old 12-pound laptop from the early 90s to the latest and greatest super-computer cluster, as well as most everything in between. When you install GNU/Linux, you decide if you want to stay on the cutting edge and be a "beta tester," or you can choose to run a heavily tested and stable version of an application. GNU/Linux is not designed to restrict the user.
In fact, free software carries freedom to the user. Microsoft claims absolute ownership over their software, but, with free
software, you have all the same rights as developers do to use, to
change, to share (even to sell) the software to whomever, and for
whatever purpose you see fit -- and, as long as you continue to pass along those same freedoms to everyone else, it will always be free software. So, don't wait for SP1, install your favorite GNU/Linux distribution today, and be a part of a thriving and respectful community that values your freedom of choice and your freedom to do what you wish with your software, your data, and your multimedia content.