Alastair’s Place

Software development, Cocoa, Objective-C, life. Stuff like that.

FUD and Extremism From the FSF

The FSF has published an article entitled 5 reasons to avoid iPhone 3G. Ironically, given the fuss they made about Microsoft FUDding Linux, this article is a blatant attempt to FUD Apple.

Sure, iPhone developers have to pay a one-off fee to Apple, and Apple does reserve the right to reject applications if they don’t meet the requirements stipulated in the SDK license agreement. And sure, iPhone does support DRM, something the FSF has been campaigning against for some time, but something the FSF is ill qualified to talk about as it does not, in fact, have any problems of its own with software, music or movie piracy.

I think the most objectionable parts are where the article says things like

iPhone exposes your whereabouts and provides ways for others to track you without your knowledge.

which is nothing less than blatant and unjustifiable scaremongering. Yes, the iPhone 3G has GPS. But in order for an application to use it, the user must agree to a message displayed by the phone. That is, the user is explicitly asked whether to allow an application access to their location.

There is also a claim that

[Fairplay] prevents you from installing free software -- software whose authors want you to freely share, copy and modify their work.

which is total bunk. If authors of Free Software choose to provide a build for the iPhone (and to do that, only a single developer need pay the license fee), they can submit their application to the App Store and Apple will distribute it for free and allow users to install it.

And sure, anyone who wants to modify the application will need a developer license, which they have to pay for. Why is this suddenly a bad thing? Wasn’t it FSF that made the point that Free Software was free as in speech and not necessarily as in beer? And isn’t it also the case that for many platforms those people who build their own versions of Free Software products require the use of commercial tools of some sort?

The go on to say that

Jobs would have us believe that all of these restrictions are necessary.

and he’s right. They are. Why? Because otherwise the iPhone would be full of viruses and other malware within a few months. The way Apple has chosen to do things does have some disadvantages, but it has the major advantage that it’s significantly harder to publish iPhone malware without getting caught than it is to publish malware for other mobile devices.

And as for the theory that Apple is

a single greedy, dishonest and secretive entity

well I think “johns”, whoever he is, needs to grow up. Apple is, of course, a business and is out to make money. That’s what businesses do. But they don’t do it solely for their own benefit; you and I hold shares in businesses, both directly and indirectly (through our bank accounts, our pensions, and a wide range of other investments). If they make a profit, we benefit. Likewise, if we don’t like how they behave, we can turn up at their AGM, or demand that those who represent our interests do so, and demand that they change their behaviour. This modern notion that big business is the Big Bad Wolf is borne out of ignorance, and it’s a great shame that the FSF seems intent on promoting this jaded and inaccurate view of the world.

It’s also a bit rich FUDding someone else and then accusing that other entity of being dishonest.

When I was a student, I used to think I agreed with some of the goals of the FSF. Maybe even most of them. In recent years though, they seem to have become more and more extreme and I now find myself wishing that they would either go back to their roots and forget about all these new things they’re complaining about, many of which have little or nothing to do with the original Free Software idea, or just pack it in and leave the rest of us the hell alone.

I certainly won’t be supporting them in future, and I have no intention of contributing to any of their projects (as I have occasionally in the past).

FSF, you’ve lost my support.