Letter: By supporting Stallman’s operating system, ITS can encourage individual freedom

To the Editor:

Richard Stallman is a true American hero. He has spent an incredible amount of time crusading for the freedom of the individual against the greed of large corporations, mainly the context of software, his lifelong passion. Though it is difficult to support all of his ideas and goals, those who are open-minded enough to shake off the Microsoft yoke and experiment with his vision of software can agree: Freedom is better.

The free and open-source software movement, despite the best efforts of Microsoft and other powerful companies, has made great progress in the past several years and is certainly here to stay. I and many others would argue, in fact, that the quality and usability of the GNU/Linux operating system (Stallman founded the GNU Project) has surpassed any closed-source OS in existence, including Windows and Mac OS X. It is a wonderful feeling to have complete control over your computer, with no programs phoning home to Redmond without your permission; with a huge community of helpful enthusiasts ready to answer any question; with no viruses, malware or product keys; and without having to spend hundreds of dollars on things that can and should be free.

A major barrier to the widespread adoption of GNU/Linux is the lack of support — even passive support — from institutions like Yale. Student techs are not officially allowed to help with open-source operating systems, and ITS encourages incoming freshmen to purchase Windows and Mac machines (along with the ridiculously expensive Microsoft Office) with no hint that technically, financially and philosophically superior alternatives exist.

While so-called “Digital Rights Management” software is an important topic, the recognition and support of open-source operating systems is something Yale could be doing now to promote freedom. Along with the deals ITS has with Microsoft, why not start relationships with open-source vendors such as Red Hat, Novell and Canonical?

The free-software movement is only going to continue to grow, and it’s time for Yale and other universities to stop inhibiting freedom and start encouraging it.

Jay Buchanan

Oct. 21

Buchanan is a senior in Branford College and a former editorials editor and copy editor for the News.

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