A response to "Windows 7 sins"

The Windows 7 sins website operated by the Free Software Foundation (FSF) presents us a message:

The fact that Windows 7 is proprietary means that Microsoft asserts legal control over its users through a combination of copyrights, contracts, and patents. Microsoft uses this power to abuse computer users. At windows7sins.org, the Free Software Foundation lists seven examples of abuse committed by Microsoft.

I by no means support Microsoft's monopoly, and personally I'm mainly a Linux user (I use Windows mainly for playing games), but I find this attack against Windows 7 rather incoherent and random. The website doesn't seem to be able to decide whether it's attacking Windows in particular, the fact that it's proprietary and not free (by the FSF definition of "free"), the fact that Microsoft has a monopoly status (independently of the licensing conditions of Windows) or the fact that Microsoft freely abuses its monopoly status for its own benefit.

The name of the website and the quote above seem to indicate that this is a critique of Windows 7 in particular, and the fact that it's proprietary software. However, their arguments seem rather weak, in my opinion:

1. Poisoning education: Today, most children whose education involves computers are being taught to use one company's product: Microsoft's. Microsoft spends large sums on lobbyists and marketing to corrupt educational departments. An education using the power of computers should be a means to freedom and empowerment, not an avenue for one corporation to instill its monopoly.

That may be so, but exactly how is this related to Windows 7 in particular, or the fact that it's proprietary? How is this a "Windows 7 sin"? Wouldn't it be a "Microsoft sin"?

2. Invading privacy: Microsoft uses software with backward names like Windows Genuine Advantage to inspect the contents of users' hard drives. The licensing agreement users are required to accept before using Windows warns that Microsoft claims the right to do this without warning.

All operating systems "inspect the contents of users' hard drives". If you, for example, upgrade some Linux distro from one version to another (let's say for example OpenSUSE 10 to OpenSUSE 11), it will inspect the contents of your hard drive in order to decide how the upgrade should go, what to preserve and what to replace. Also if you make a system backup, all operating systems will, rather obviously, inspect everything that you have in your hard drives.

The OS inspecting your hard drives is not an issue of privacy.

What could become an issue of privacy is if the OS would send sensitive private user data (such as contact info or credit card numbers) to somebody else. Microsoft is bound to the privacy laws of every country where they are selling their products. In most countries a license agreement never supersedes the law of the country. Microsoft cannot override a privacy law, no matter what they write in their license agreement.

3. Monopoly behavior: Nearly every computer purchased has Windows pre-installed -- but not by choice. Microsoft dictates requirements to hardware vendors, who will not offer PCs without Windows installed on them, despite many people asking for them. Even computers available with other operating systems like GNU/Linux pre-installed often had Windows on them first.

That may be so, but exactly how is this related to Windows 7 in particular, or the fact that it's proprietary? How is this a "Windows 7 sin"? Wouldn't it be a "Microsoft sin"?

Besides, I don't think it's the monopoly status in particular that you are opposing here. For example, the FSF has practically a monopoly status with Linux because the majority of software included in basically every single Linux distro is distributed under a license by the FSF. Moreover, the FSF even tries to enforce its monopoly status by claiming that the operating system should be called "Gnu/Linux" rather than simply "Linux".

There may be alternative non-FSF-licensed software for everything in a typical Linux distro, but no distro I know of does this. So the FSF has in practice a total monopoly status on Linux. GPL advocates are also rather infamous for badmouthing free software which is distributed under non-FSF compatible licenses.

So you are not opposing monopoly behavior in itself (as the FSF itself enjoys such a status), but Microsoft's monopoly in particular.

4. Lock-in: Microsoft regularly attempts to force updates on its users, by removing support for older versions of Windows and Office, and by inflating hardware requirements. For many people, this means having to throw away working computers just because they don't meet the unnecessary requirements for the new Windows versions.

Exactly how is this different from other operating systems? For example the OpenSUSE project has completely dropped support for SUSE 9 (it does not get security updates, nor any other kind of updates anymore), and probably will similary drop support for OpenSUSE 10 some time in the future.

Newer versions of many Linux distros have stronger hardware requirements, especially if you want to run a modern windowing system. There isn't much difference here either. Don't expect support for older versions of the same distro to be maintained forever.

5. Abusing standards: Microsoft has attempted to block free standardization of document formats, because standards like OpenDocument Format would threaten the control they have now over users via proprietary Word formats. They have engaged in underhanded behavior, including bribing officials, in an attempt to stop such efforts.

That may be so, but exactly how is this related to Windows 7 in particular, or the fact that it's proprietary? How is this a "Windows 7 sin"? Wouldn't it be a "Microsoft sin"?

7. Threatening user security: Windows has a long history of security vulnerabilities, enabling the spread of viruses and allowing remote users to take over people's computers for use in spam-sending botnets. Because the software is secret, all users are dependent on Microsoft to fix these problems -- but Microsoft has its own security interests at heart, not those of its users.

How is this different from other operating systems? Linux is the second operating system with most security holes found each year, behind Windows. The average Linux user is completely dependent on Linux developers to fix those security holes. This isn't too much different from Windows and its dependency on Microsoft to fix security holes.

Microsoft might have "its own security interests at heart, not those of its users", but in most cases the two things coincide: It makes no sense for Microsoft to not to fix security holes. It's bad PR to not to do so. In some countries Microsoft might even be legally bound to do so.