Allow the iPhone Blog to Retort!

Surprise, surprise, the Free Software Foundation doesn't want you to use an iPhone 3G. Less surprisingly, they don't want to provide anything more than hyper-sensational, factually challenged reasons why you shouldn't buy it:

Phone completely blocks free software. iPhone endorses and supports Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) technology. iPhone exposes your whereabouts and provides ways for others to track you without your knowledge. iPhone won't play patent- and DRM-free formats like Ogg Vorbis and Theora. iPhone is not the only option.

Sigh. Why is it those who demand freedom the most are usually the same ones who respect freedom of choice the least?

They go on to call Apple's CEO, Steve Jobs, a snake-oil salesman who uses good design to pied-piper the dull mundane consumers into buying his shiny little toy, thus abandoning themselves drone-like to his evil, conspiratorial prison. Patronizing? Hypocritical? Black and white just one option too many for the FSF?

DaringFireball gives it a sentence. Allow me to give it a retort! (After the break)

Equally simple analogy:

I have the ability to cook, yet sometimes I choose to buy myself dinner. Sadly, restaurants completely block free eating. Customers must PAY for the food, and the chef is sole authority as to what can or can't be offered on the menu. Restaurants endorse and support federal, state/provincial, and local health and safety codes. Restaurants are public and allow you to be seen and observed eating. Restaurants won't use free, non-proprietary recipes and insist on keeping their secret sauces and 11 herbs and spices to themselves. Restaurants are not the only option. "Stallman's All You Can Eat Organic Buffet" will be opening, gratis, any day now... (Or, again, you can learn to cook yourself!)

One of the gentlemen I work with, Anthony, has rocked his laptop out with Linux in a way that's every bit as drool-worthy as OS X, but I don't have the midichlorians for that depth of geekery, b'okay? He spent a long (loooong) time hacking away at it to get it like that. I opened my shiny Apple box and pressed the power button. I made a choice. We both did. The same choice truly free (as in speech or beer) people are empowered to make. The same as growing my own food or eating at a restaurant.

And as for the App Store? The iPhone doesn't block free software. You can make any software you want. Apple can likewise refuse to distribute any software they want. Free goes both ways, right? Or should Apple be forced to push your pr0n virus? Developers don't pay a tax. They buy a distribution service based on a percentage of revenue such that when revenue is nill, the distribution fee is likewise nill. (30% of 0 is 0, in case FSF calculators can't yet handle arithmetic). And the sole authority over what can and can't be on my iPhone? That'd be me. (I can even banish the built-in Apps to screen 9...)

Do I really have to metaphor-strain the sous-chef not getting all the customer's money because a percentage goes to to pay rent, utilities, infrastructure, suppliers, etc. And that customers can easily leave part or all of their food on the plate if its not to their liking?

Lest we forget, Apple is a for-profit company and the iPhone is a consumer device. People in general not only want but need to get paid for their work. Not everyone can rely on patronage or millions in Google search revenue (which is really just another, sometimes less up-front, method of accepting payment for work).

As to Steve Jobs being the mustache-twirling villain, better to think of him more as self-absorbed artist. He wants to paint his picture of the perfect gadget, and he absolutely cringes at the idea of someone else coming along and doodling on it afterwards. See, it's not really a computer or a phone to him, its his creation (and the creation of his apprentices). Sure, he'll compromise to get the work done (DRM) and to get it out (App Store), but its not just a little beige box crunching math to him. It's an object d'art.

Still, Free and Open Source Software is important to the industry. For every singular concept piece, there must be thousands if not millions of utilitarian derivatives. Hey, even Apple contributes toward WebKit, Darwin, CUPS, SproutCore, CalDAV, CardDAV, and a host of other FOSS projects. (Yup, patronage). That importance is probably why I'm so disappointed in the FSF. It's a serious topic for serious people, not an agenda or petty stick to be batted about in the name of media attention (which I'm sadly giving).

But bottom-line, there's only one reason to avoid the iPhone 3G: If you choose something else.