Universities that do not use Free Software: Time for a boycott?

Jon

Paw Prints: Writings of the maddog

Aug 29, 2008 GMT
Jon maddog Hall

I received an email recently from a young man in Brazil who wanted me to come to his university and talk to the students and faculty about using Free Software. I am normally happy to advise universities to use Free Software, but usually this is done in conjunction with some large conference held at the university or some other venue. I just do not have the time to visit each and every school. But I did investigate the university of the student and found that Microsoft was indeed a sponsor of the University. In fact, the university had a large banner on the front page of their web site talking about Microsoft as a partner. It was the first time I saw a university advertising a commercial firm on their home page.

I started doing a little more investigation of the student's city and found that there was another university in the same city that was very active with Free Software. In fact, they had a mirror of Debian software and were actively promoting Free Software.

At first I thought that perhaps the two universities could join forces and put on a "Free Software Day" where I could give a talk. Then I thought that perhaps the professors from the "Free Software" university could talk to the professors from the "Microsoft" university and convince the latter faculty on the benefits of using Free Software to teach students or do research. But the more I thought about the topic, the more I thought this was the wrong approach.

The time has now come for a boycott of universities that use closed source, proprietary software.

Ten years ago a boycott might not have been possible. There were too few universities that had access to enough really good Free Software to ask the students to make a "sacrifice" in forsaking a university that only used proprietary software to teach. Now, with the range of Free Software that is available, and with the marketplace crying out for new programmers trained in Free Software development techniques, and with many more good universities using Free Software to teach courses, the university "marketplace" is ready for the boycott.

Some people may think that a boycott is a little extreme, but universities certainly had their chance to move into what is a more rational way of teaching computer science, computer engineering, most of the sciences and even certain of the humanities. Free Software abounds in huge quantities and in almost every category. Movements like the Creative Commons have opened up the ability to build on the works of others. Research is now being done on the collaborative methods of work. The time for using only proprietary software (or even any proprietary software) is long gone.

People have to wonder why universities still continue using closed source proprietary software. Could it be that Microsoft and other companies pay the university to use their software, locking in the students, perhaps not paying directly, but in the guise of giving "discount licenses" to students and faculty? This is a bogus argument, since most Free Software is available gratis, and is freely distributable.

Could it be that universities still use proprietary software due to the myth that "students will be able to get a job when they leave the university", despite the fact that Free Software is now being used in almost every company around the world, whether that company knows it or not? Do they use proprietary software due to the myth that "you can not make money with Free Software", despite the fact that major corporations are making (or saving) money with Free Software and hire Free Software programmers?

I do have a theory why some universities are still using proprietary software, and it is not flattering. It has to do with the lack of intellectual honesty in the goals of the university.

A university's job is not to "train a student so they can get a job". A university's job is to "train a student how to think", how to gather data, evaluate data, create information and lead people. A university's job is to do research to further the base of knowledge, so we can move forward, and to publish this research so that others can move forward also. Universities, particularly publicly funded universities should be using Free Software to do this research and using Free Software as the basis of the research. The public should not have to pay twice or three times for the same research. Are you listening, legislators who fund public universities? Are you listening, corporate executives who pay taxes to fund these universities, who depend on the graduates to instill new ideas into your companies?

But the final task of convincing the universities to use Free Software lies with the students like my friend who sent the letter asking me to visit his university. You have to "vote". As you apply to universities you can investigate if the university uses Free Software in their courses. If the answer is "no", then you write to the president of the university and say, "I am sorry, I can not attend a university that only teaches how to use a product, and does not use and advocate Free Software." You have then cast a vote for the use of Free Software in that university.

Do you want to do research? Attend a university that uses and advocates Free Software.

When universities find out that the best and brightest students are going to "competing universities" (and universities DO compete), then they will start to make the change.

Carpe Diem!

Comments

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  • OpenSource and Universities

    My University (Leicester) 'colluded' with Microsoft in the development of Windows 2000. It is now irrevocably associated with MS. My complaints that it should be using OpenSource fall on deaf ears. I agree with the principles enunciated by Maddog:

    * these are publicly-funded institutions, so there is an onus to use funding efficiently and effectively;
    * they are institutions of higher-education so they should be sponsoring the development of a free and freely-available knowledge - that is their primary raison d'etre;
    * the preponderant use of our systems is low-level and can be easily satisfied by OpenSource applications software as well as OS;
    * power consumption would be lower so that we could contribute to a greener environment and concomitantly reduce our overheads;
    * Linux/Unix OS run on much lower spec kit - we constantly have to replace hardware with each iteration of Windows at immense cost;
    * we need to be ahead of the game; at the moment, educational licences from MS are a fraction of what business users are charged; in effect, we are subscribing to MS's strategy of hooking people in so that they expect to use MS software; on the other hand, many organizations (business and governments) have moved to Linux (NYSE - Wall St [from BSD to Red Hat, in fact], French gendarmerie [from MS to Red Hat], and so on; the trickle may become a larger exodus as more companies recognize the benefits. Consider this: NYSE used BSD and then moved to Linux with, as far as I know, no downtime; London SE committed to a new system with MS a year ago and has experienced two crashes in a year. The argument for OpenSource OS is the inherent stability as well as freedom and free.

    Finally, Maddog, rest assured that our Dept of Computing Studies is more enlightened than our Computer Centre: it does teach the principles and its own LAN consists of a variety of specs, including Ubuntu.

    I will continue to advocate that OpenSource is the most appropriate route for a publicly-funded university for its general functioning.

  • Re: Music notation: the best example... of a wrong example

    You never really justify that statement. Is it a bad example because it is irrefutable? Believe me when I tell you that no one more than my self would love to have nothing other than Unix based software.

    Something really cool I do professionally: scan sheet music for solo instrument and piano to midi (yes from the scanner), remove the violin part, adjust the piano score, and play along with the computer. This is priceless in order to continuously improve intonation, rhythm, knowledge of the piano score etc.

    Could you or anyone name anything that comes even close to what I have describe which is Open Source?
  • Re: @Al Zoony: Huh?

    Basically,
    1. I will do my best to use open source software, commercial or not.
    2. If an application is closed source or whatever, I will use it without reservation.

    I will not discriminate about an application because it was written by a commercial closed source company; or worse, compromise the quality of my work by using an application of lesser quality than "necessary" simply because it is an open source counterpart.
  • Some observations and clarifications

    After reading all of the comments from this stream, I would like to make some additional comments of my own.

    First of all, when I used the term "boycott", I meant a "personal" boycott. I do not expect people to picket outside of the schools declaring them to be evil or satanic because they use proprietary software. But I did want to raise the level of awareness in prospective students, researchers and professors that a choice of a university may be more than what is listed in their college catalog, and if using Free Software is a high priority for you, then perhaps you should add that to your list of items in choosing (or continuing to study at) a school.

    Secondly, having taught at several universities, I have seen both very rigid use of tools and very flexible use of tools for teaching. When I taught I allowed the students to use a wide variety of computer languages for their work (even when teaching a specific language I allowed them to use several compilers).
    I was fortunate to be able to read those languages and understand what they did. Some professors did not have the range of language skiils I had, and therefore had to be more restrictive. What I see now in certain universities is the teaching of specific products as if they were a curriculum, with product names being listed instead of functionality.

    I was fortunate to be taught at a university where fundamentals and theory were stressed. The education that I received forty years ago has allowed me to understand the principles behind even the most modern of computers today. Yet I have found a current college professors (a department head of computer science) who could not understand the concepts of recursion because they lacked these basic principles.

    Third, I while I made a strong case, that is my job as an "activist" for free software. Certainly the proprietary companies have been making a strong case for the use of their products and tools in universities for the past twenty years, and continue to make that case every day. In reality I would hope that universities would use both proprietary and Free Software in teaching their courses. In fact, I would encourage that every course expose students to a variety of tools, some proprietary and some Free, so the students can see which tool best suits their tasks, and how the tools solve the problem (inspection of the sources as one method). Unfortunately this balanced approach does not always happen, so I continue to be an "activist".

    Finally, if I appear to be "meddling" in the way that universities teach, or trying to deny the "academic freedom" that a faculty has, I feel that freedom was given up a long time ago by some universities when proprietary companies started funding some of the "programs" mentioned in these comments. As a taxpayer and a long time leader of industry I have the right to comment on the way that students are taught in a university, particularly a publicly funded university, and to encourage these same students to make their own decisions whether they want to attend a particular university or not. If the faculty of those universities wish to continue using those proprietary products to teach an ever-shrinking pool of bright, inquisitive students while those students chose to go to a university that stresses the use of Free Software in education, that is their right (and freedom) also.

    maddog

  • Matlab versus Octave

    @ David F. Skoll Sep 01, 2008 4:01pm GMT

    "I disagree. I think they should be able to stipulate that only if students have free access to a computer lab running said software. That way, students are not forced to buy proprietary software. For example, if I can solve the assignment using Octave, why should I use Matlab? What difference does it make?"

    Well ... you are right. What I *meant* is that if I organise a course that uses Matlab as a vehicle, I reserve the right to bar entries from someone who attempts to do the coursework in C, C++, C#, Python, or Java.
    Of course, as Octave is largely compatible with Matlab (objects and graphics can be a problem, but ordinary code generally carries over) I wouldn't mind at all if someone were to hand in their work having done it in Octave instead of Matlab. Scilab would be more problematic however, as the syntax is a bit different.

    " And if I really need Matlab, the university should provide a way to run Matlab on its network."

    Yes of course. I would never expect students to actually go off and buy Matlab (although student editions aren't bad as value for money goes). And yes, Matlab is installed as standard on all computing lab machines. All I plead for is that professors are to be allowed to specify *one* mandatory language for coursework even if that happens to be a commercial product.

    Open Source is a great benefit, but for practical reasons I distance myself from any position that says: "Thou shalt use Open Source software whenever available". I simply want to be able to select the best tool for the job, where Open versus Proprietary is simply part of the attribute set that characterises a software package.

    Sometimes the benefit of being Open Source (whether price or access to source) outweighs the disadvantages (if any; I am thinking of e.g. lack of polish, features, adherence to Industry standards), and sometimes it does not. I don't want any dogmaticists telling people what software to use. Principled advocacy is one thing, meddling is another.
  • BAIT or DONATION

    FISHERMEN call it BAIT, FISH call it DINNER, either way there is a HOOK IN IT SOMEWHERE.

    Any college that accepts a donation will have to accept the terms it is given under.

    That said, in order to know how honorable accepting the donation was, you need to look at the terms of the DONOR.

    So, what would MICROSOFT do ....
  • Choice

    @Golodh:

    "About mandatory laptops. I'm afraid it's a trade-off, but I submit that it's very practical to be able to assume that all students have *a* laptop at their disposal with certain minimum specifications."

    I have no problem with that. The institution I'm talking about forces you to buy a particular brand of laptop from them, with a specific bundle of proprietary software and at an inflated price.

    "I think e.g. that professors should be able to stipulate that the coursework for a certain class should be done in Matlab (provided the University makes sure that low-cost student licenses are available)."

    I disagree. I think they should be able to stipulate that only if students have free access to a computer lab running said software. That way, students are not forced to buy proprietary software. For example, if I can solve the assignment using Octave, why should I use Matlab? What difference does it make? And if I really need Matlab, the university should provide a way to run Matlab on its network. I studied engineering; the university certainly did not expect me to purchase the heavy-duty synchronous motors, the logic analyzers, etc. used in our labs. Why should it expect me to purchase software?

    "When it comes to software that Universities use in teaching and research, I maintain that it's up to them to decide what goes."

    Of course. And it's up to us (students and interested parties) to illuminate why using proprietary software is completely contrary to the mandate of Universities, which is to provide an open and collaborative environment for education. Keeping things locked up and controlled is the antithesis of academic values.

  • @Golodh

    @Golodh: Of course Universities are free to choose what software they use. But also, students are free to decide which universities they go to. And encouraging students to choose universities that don't swallow the prorietary pill (is that the blue one or the red one? I can never remember) strikes me a s Good Thing.

    So some Open Source software programs aren't quite as capable as their proprietary competition. Is there any case where the difference in capability is so great as to outweigh the advantages of promoting openess? I can't say for certain, but I expect such cases are very few.

    And whenever the Open Source programs are somewhat deficient, the Universities should undertake to improve the Open Source software. That's what any user of Open Source software should do when he is able to, and most universities certainly have the capability to contribute to Open Source projects.

    Universities should be the last place on Earth that swallow the proprietary pill. It is utterly at odds with open collaboration, on which Science of all kinds is built. It is fit and proper for Open Source advocates to encourage students to avoid Universities that cross over to the Dark Side.
  • There are indeed areas

    There are indeed areas, where the offering is inadequate.
    Using 2D, QCAD can replace AutoCad a long way, but going 3D, there is simply nothing like AutoCAD or SolidWorks. There is a GNU/Linux version of VariCAD, but that is not free software (if it had been, I suspect the interface would have been less hideous).
    In the humanities and social sciences, however, I can't think of any software that wouldn't be up to the task. I wrote my BA thesis in OpenOffice.org - and nowadays, even the features of Abiword would be sufficiant to do so. Consider the bibliography database in OOo. Which proprietary word processor has bibliography management included?
  • A database of Digitally Free Schools already exists

    it was created just to help students and families to deal with these problems and it's at http://digifreedom.net/node/55

    I always welcome pointers for other schools and universities to add to that page.

    Best Regards,

    Marco Fioretti
  • CS classes especially

    I can't say I fault a business college for teaching Excel, or a mechanical engineering school for using AutoCAD, or a music production school for using ProTools. But when it comes to computer science, it makes me sick to see the prevalence of Microsoft products.

    I've been trying to get through night classes at a local community college to get my Computer Information Systems degree, but I've about given up because everything is Microsoft. Not that I am religiously anti-proprietary or anti-microsoft, but the fact that everything is filtered through the "Microsoft lens" makes the classes close to worthless. For example, our "Database concepts" class was "How to use Access". Ugh! With SQLite, MySQL, and Postgresql out there, why on earth would you make a student pay $$$ for "my first database" and waste their time learning how to make forms instead of learning some real SQL (we only just barely touched on joins, never even talked about set operations or nested select statements).

    I guess the issue is, it's not just the fact that they use proprietary software, it's that they use it to the exclusion of (often superior) FOSS options. And students are the worse for it. Seriously, if you were going to train the next generation of DBA's, would you not feel better handing them PostgreSQL? Or would you rather that the future custodians of the world's personal data spend their college years designing pretty forms?

    Outside of computer related degrees, I doubt any boycott would get much traction (not that I'd expect much even in those fields); there are too many factors affecting how students choose an institution for most to make much of software licensing. But I do think that things may change on the smaller college levels as local business communities embrace FOSS. Small colleges are driven by the business community, and if the skills they need aren't being taught, they will make noise. Sad that "education" is so mercenary, but that's the world for you.
  • Software vs. Software?

    I'm from Perú, and since "third" world is place where cheaper developers come, but at the same time we are emerging nations, Closed software is just taking place to guarantee their productivity, so we are in career against .
    Perhaps it is time to just talk about "good" software and "bad" software, but using quality and sustainability as differentation factor. The "big" people who invest in software are not romantic about gratis/free software, they just want to get better profits from their investment. We can not try to "hide the sun with a finger", somebody have to pay the plate of soup and the coffee right? and future developers should know how to make enough money and contribute to gratis/free software right?

    Blessings!
  • Microsoft Imagine Cup in curriculum of University of Canberra, Australia

    This post by Jon maddog Hall reminds me of the University of Canberra in Australia that incorporates a Microsoft sponsored event into its computer engineering curriculum. You might want to read a press release at

    http://www.canberra.edu.au/faculties/ise
  • Mandatory laptops; choice of laptop make and software

    @ David F. Skoll

    About mandatory laptops. I'm afraid it's a trade-off, but I submit that it's very practical to be able to assume that all students have *a* laptop at their disposal with certain minimum specifications. If you can't do that then it becomes awkward to mandate use of e.g. Blackboard or any other intranet system. That's what you trade off against the fact that you force students to spend a considerable amount of money. So no, I don't see the problem with the requirement that students have *a* laptop with prescribed minimum specifications. And I don't see anything wrong with prescribing anti-virus / firewall software as a precondition of being allowed to connect that laptop to the University network.

    But I agree that it becomes a different matter if the University mandates a specific *brand* of laptop which sell significantly (say 5%) above market price (for the same specifications), and (to take matters further) if it mandates the use of MS Office software. Mandatory use of certain file formats (even MS formats) is (I feel) defensible, prescribing actual software much less so. Unless there is a more or less objective reason for doing so. I think e.g. that professors should be able to stipulate that the coursework for a certain class should be done in Matlab (provided the University makes sure that low-cost student licenses are available).

    When it comes to the hardware and software that *students* are to use, I agree with you that Universities should not prescribe specific brands or manufacturers, (even if they may insist on compatibility with certain proprietary file formats).

    When it comes to software that Universities use in teaching and research, I maintain that it's up to them to decide what goes.
  • @Golodh

    @Golodh you make very valid points but then again its a matter of preference. You prefer Matlab to an OSS alternative. I find no problem using Octave and Scilab in fact I find them both superior to Matlab. I find their debugging capabilities far superior to Matlab, you clearly haven't tried sticking with anything long enough to get used to it. Their graphical capabilities are far more astounding and accurate than Matlab too.
    Also you perhaps need to look at Sage as much more viable option to Maple and Mathematica than Macsyma which I agree is inferior.
    You points while all valid are just a matter of preference.
  • Best software

    The most important point of this article is not so much about choosing the best software, it is about education. We don't go to college to learn how to choose the best software. We go to college to learn computing principles, software engineering, programming, computer science, etc. It has always escaped me how one is to learn about operating systems, for instance, while using a closed operating system.
  • Universities That Do Not Use Free Software: Time for a Boycott?

    I agree that there are a number of universities still using some commercial software. Part of the reason they are using those is there are not much aware of the existence of open source software. I was surprise to see that there are some university students who do not know about office package like open office.

    One thing I want to make here is that in Sri Lanka , with FOSS community we teach both university student and college students the existence and power of open source. And we can see that most of the students are now using open source software. So that a good point.

    One way to get universities to use open source software is from bottom up approach , where we need to teach student about the open source software and then then should talk to the higher level.

    Recently I did a talk at Georgia tech and one thing I asked to do is use open source software as much as they can.

    http://blogs.deepal.org/
  • University decision-making

    @GolodH: "Universities are more than capable of deciding for themselves what software to use for teaching and research."

    No, they are *not*. In the case I'm thinking about, a bunch of non-technical university administrators thought "Hey, wouldn't it be cool to require students to have a laptop?" There were no good technological nor pedagogical reasons for this decision. The fact that a laptop manufacturer and a software manufacturer presented the University with a "deal" (from which I bet the University derives a kickback) couldn't *possibly* have had anything to do with it... naaah...
  • Proprietary software is bloated

    I hate to say it but some proprietary software is not as good as free and hard to get. For Open office is a far better performer for DTP than MS office. Also it is cross platform, free & needs no licensing. Gimp is better because it can do a heck of alot and is constantly improving and also cross platform. Those coming from their sugar tit (Windows) have no idea how brainwashed they are. Most needs are very well met with open source. Fact: Proprietary software is bloated with features that most people don't use.
  • Oops...

    I got the name of the institution with the rip-off laptop program wrong... it's the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (http://www.uoit.ca/)
  • A restricted boycott is a good idea...

    We should boycott universities that *require* students to use and purchase proprietary software. For example, the Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada requires students to purchase laptops (at a rip-off-inflated price, I might add) as well as a bundle of proprietary software. You can't attend unless you do this.

    That's the kind of brain-dead institution that needs a good boycott.
  • Universities should choose, not Open Source activists

    Perhaps mr. Hall's post is well-intentioned, but it's also quite deluded, for at least four reasons.

    Firstly, Open Source software stands for freedom and should win on merit, not as a result of enforcement through rules or boycotts. I'm afraid that this article has lost sight of that principle.

    Secondly, a "boycott" of what? And by whom? If there were to be any boycott, it would have to be students electing to enroll in an institution that uses Open Source software. They have the direct relationship with Universities that Open Source advocates lack. Of course mr. Hall is free to call for unspecified boycotts, but that's an appeal from an outsider to those who are actually involved.

    Thirdly, Open Source software isn't always up to the task. Sorry, but there it is. Open Source is a good way of developing software, and closely akin to the way in which scientific information is shared. But in certain, often specialist, areas Open Source simply isn't up to scratch and definitely lags behind commercial software. In scope, quality, attention to detail, and hence productivity. Whether that's acceptable is a matter of judgment on part of the Universities and Industry.

    Let me give some specialist examples. Take e.g. symbolic algebra. There is no OS package that can compete with Maple or Mathematica (I know about Macsyma and it's inferior). Take Matlab ... there are clones (Scilab, Octave) that are come close and are almost as good. But Matlab is still ahead (in e.g. programming, debugging and graphical capabilities). Take GIS. We have GRASS and QGIS, but where it overlaps with commercial products from ESRI, Intergraph, Mapinfo and Autodesk, Open Source does worse. And where it doesn't overlap, it does slightly different things. Granted, there are some very useful ways of integrating e.g. "GRASS" with "R" (an Open Source language for statistical computation) gor geo-statistics that isn't as easy with commercial counterparts, but that's just a beginning.

    Then there is Office software. Granted, there is Open Office which rivals (and nearly matches) Microsoft's Office offerings. But the bulk of the applications in industry is still in MS Office. Whilst it might seem attractive to Open Source advocates to reduce the effects of lock-in through boycotts, it's not for them to decide, since the cost of switching versus the cost of using proprietary software is something any business should figure out for itself.

    Fourth and last, it's part and parcel of Academic Freedom (you know, the little detail than ensures that Universities can act independently) to be allowed to choose what software they want to use. It's definitely not up to Open Source advocates like mr. Hall to make that choice. What Universities need from Open Source people is high-quality software. Not activism, not advocacy, and no ideology. Universities are more than capable of deciding for themselves what software to use for teaching and research.

  • Database of Universities using Free Software

    I do not know of a database of universities using free software, but I do think that this is not the way to choose a university.

    I would suggest that you list your other requirements for choosing a university. When you have a short list, you can then contact your top selection, and if it uses Free Software in teaching and research, then your task is done. Otherwise you go to the next one on your list.

    Just looking in a database and deciding whether or not to go to a university would actually work against my suggested "boycott", since the universities that do not use free software would never know why you did not chose them. Using this suggested approach, you can honestly say "I would have selected your university except you did not use Free Software"...a very powerful message.

    maddog
  • @Miroslav Jovanovic

    The FEEIT in Skopje, in fact, uses Sun's Solaris and mostly Suse Linux 10. The faculty also hosted the event "Spodeli znaenje", which promoted free software and was organized by "Free Software Macedonia" organization. http://spodeliznaenje.blogspot.com, until the event was relocated to a new place.

    The banner on the web site means that Microsoft offers trainings for lower prices for students. I don't think there's big similarity between FEEIT and that "Microsoft" University in Brazil.
  • What would be helpful

    I am just starting to look for a college. What would be really helpful for me would be an online database of which colleges require the use of proprietary software. Does such a database exist? It would also give me a chance to share the colleges I found that require or don't require it, so that more people than just myself would benefit.

    I think a database such as this is the only way to achive the results described in this post.
  • Music notation: the best example... of a wrong example

    Definitely! I've been using only Free Software for years, and particularly LilyPond made me realize I would never ever go back to using proprietary alternatives.

    I hate to admit when Free alternatives are not as good as existing proprietary software, but there are some example indeed (though, once again, music notation was actually a very bad choice); business software, specialized niches, gaming etc. However, I think chosing Free software is not only a consumer's choice, but also a citizen's commitment.

    It's by using and spreading Free software that you can help making it better. And public-funded facilities (universities, but also research, etc.) should play a major role in this process -- that is, if these democratic structures want to prove they're legitimate, and not just devoted to serving big companies such as MS.
  • Microsoft on another Faculty

    After this article I have visited the FEEIT home page (Faculty for Electronic Engineering and Information Technology) in Skopje, Republic of Macedonia and I saw a "cute" banner "Microsoft Acadamy at FEEIT" ( http://www.feit.ukim.edu.mk/ ) so as it looks this is not a lonely case.

    This banner is available on the front page, but not on the English one.

    What can I say, the faculty is crippling the students with such a approach.
  • Music engraving

    For a comparison with Finale, see http://lilypond.org/web/abo...ed-engraving/big-page#software more specifically.
  • Music notation software ?

    You probably haven't heard of LilyPond: http://lilypond.org/web/about/automated-engraving/big-page

    Finale and co aren't at all the best you can do in music engraving; sure you have to learn the lilypond notations and it's not a "visual interactive WYSIWYG" editor, but rather a "What you Mean is what you get", and the result is only achievable with Finale-like with hours and hours of tweaking (when it is acheivable at all).
  • @Al Zoony: Huh?

    Your post sure is confusing. First you seem to say that you choose the best software, regardless of whether it is proprietary or free. Then you say you "run away from" anything that you cannot compile and enhance on your own.

    Which is it? You can't have it both ways.

    And let me point out that Freedom isn't free. If not enough people are willing to fight for their Freedom, that Freedom soon will be gone, because there are always some big institutions trying to restrict what you can do.

    In this context, "fight" doesn't mean physical conflict. Rather, it means accepting some inconveniece, if necessary, to choose a Free program over a proprietary one, even if the Free program is somewhat lacking. Assuming enough people do so, the Free program will attract the attention of more developers and it will get better. To this end, everyone interested in improving Free software should encourage as many people as possible to switch to Free software, to accelerate the progress.
  • Free Software, proprietary software, or what?

    I am all for free software. However, I cannot let that fact cloud my judgment. I believe that better software should be the choice. Some proprietary software is way better than free software. Music notation industry is a very good example. Finale, Sibelius, SmartScore etc etc could not even be compared to anything that has ever been written and probably will be written in a while in the free software world. I find this regrettable but it is a fact.

    If an argument is going to be made, the argument cannot possible by limited to the license of the product. Having said that. I run away from anything that I cannot compile, customize, inspect, enhance on my own. I believe I should have the last word on how I should enjoy a product and at what quality level. If a company produces what I seek, my choice is do it better or get it regardless of the license or price they have rightfully chosen.
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