Don't Use Propietary Software

Avoid it when you can

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So my grandpa regularly types up his journal on his computer, he was using the 2010 version of Microsoft Office. A few weeks ago he showed it to me because there was a message on it saying that Microsoft Office 2010 was no longer supported and he needed to update to a new version (which of course isn't free). I told him that he could just ignore that message since it probably just meant that tech support would no longer help him if he called in for help.

Microsoft Office 2010 worked just fine for ten years, there's no reason that just because it is no longer being patched and supported by tech support that it sohuld not keep working (absent of any major changes to the operating system), it was working just fine just before, Windows also wasn't going through any big changes, there was no logical reason for that program to stop working.

Well, a few days ago he had me look at it again. he said it wasn't saving things right or something. So I tested it out by opening one of his files, adding a few words at the end, saving and closing the program. I opened the file back up and my stuff was there so it was good, but my grandpa didn't see me do that so he had me do it again so this time I removed my test line and then saved and quit. This time when we went to open the file back up to see if it had worked the file was gone.

Seeing that there was clearly something wrong I promptly installed Libre Office on his computer so that he would never have that problem again. Now I don't particularly like Libre Office, but it is free and open source, won't "stop working" when Microsoft wants you to buy somehting new, and teaching my grandpa Vim is a bad idea. Interestingly after I had gotten Libre Office up and running and set it to be the default app for .docx files on his computer the file that had disapeared earlier was back.

What's the big deal?

So you might look at this story and think, "Oh, old program stopped working so get a new one, no big deal," but what you don't understand is that programs don't just "stop working" when they have no reason to. Sure hardware wears out and becomes obsolete as time goes by but that doesn't apply to software, a program that randomly stops working on a computer that it always has worked on is not something that happens absent of some sort of update. Consider the fact that I'm writing this on an eight year old computer using programs that were written in the eighties, I know when things do and don't work. Ones and zeroes don't die.

So obviously time is not the enemy here, it was Microsoft. Microsoft cannot sustain itself if you buy a piece of their software once and then just use that for ten years. In order for Microsoft to stay afloat it needs you to buy a new version of the same program every few years, even if the new version offers no benefits to you that you didn't already have from the old one.* Microsoft must have put some sort of "defect" in Office 2010 that caused it to randomly stop functioning right in order to encourage (force) people like my grandpa to buy the latest version when they have no reason to. Would you ever buy a car that stopped starting as soon as a new model came out? No of course not, why would you use software that does this?

Of course Microsoft isn't the only bad guy in the software space. It has been confirmed that if you happen to be running the latest version of Mac OS then Apple is logging every program you use, when you use them, aong with your IP address. If you have an Andriod phone you are not in control of when it updates, your phone may have been the top of the line model two years ago with all the processing power neccecary for the next Android update, but if your cell-phone provider decides it wants more of your money then it won't let you update your perfectly capable phone, it will force you to buy a new phone if you want to use the new update. Again imagine what you would say if you owned a ten year old car in nearly perfect condition but as soon as you tried to get on the freeway a cop pulls you over and tells you that your perfectly good car is too old to be driven on the freeway. Nobody would tolerate that. If we wouldn't tolerate this sort of a thing with a car why are we tolerating it with computers.

And then of course there are all of the "free" programs and services. If a program is free and proprietary then you are the product. There ain't no such thing as a free lunch. How do you think Youtube is free? Youtube holds more data and has higher traffic than any other "free" site on the internet, servers and server space are not free. For context I pay $5 a month for the server this site is hosted on, Youtube has started to provide 4K movies, a single 4K movie would not fit on the server I am renting. Youtube has adds of course, but that doesn't pay all the bils alone, they are collecting data to build a profile of who you are and selling it. But not only are they selling that data, they are exploiting it. Have you ever gotten onto Youtube to look up one video on how to do something and then realize three hours later that you've wasted half your day on Youtube? Youtube's "algorithm" is designed to figure out what videos you are most likely to watch and continuously reccomend them to you so that you can waste time watching those thus allowing you to see more ads which gives Youtube more money. This is not something you can avoid by simply logging out of your Google account and clearing your browser history. They track your IP address. There have been times where I have purchaced a new computer then gotten onto Youtube before ever logging into any online service and already it would be recomending the sort of stuff I usually watch just because I was using the same Wi-fi network that I usually do. When you are using a free byt propriatary service you are the product.

How can this be avoided?

Simply put, you should not be using propriatary software if you don't have to. Unless your job requires you to use some form propriatary softare you shouldn't even be using Mac or Windows. You cannot garuntee that a program isn't taking advantage of you unless it is open source. Linux should be the norm, especially since it has progressed to the point where it is just as easy to use (arguably easier in some cases) than Mac and Windows, and you can do the same things. I have absolutely no idea why public school systems pay millions of dollars for Windows licences when all school computers are ever used for is Google and to teach kids how to type, this can be done on Linux for free, contact your local government and tell them to stop using your tax dollars to pay for software they don't need. Aside form video confrencing, there is a viable free and open source alternative to every program the average person uses.

Stop using Windows, Stop using Google Chrome, Stop subscribing to various things on social media sites like Youtube, use RSS instead. Stop letting the software companies expliot you.

* Notice that Microsoft has finally realized that this strategy doesn't work, this is why Office 365 is now a yearly subscription service.
The future they want for us is subscription based everything but that's a topic for another day.