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thegnu wrote

It depends on what perspective you'd like to criticize from.

From a developer's perspective: I would try to reverse engineer bits of it if you know how, as that's the best way to learn what's wrong with it. It could be horrible optimization, messy programming, or any number of other things.

From a Free Software advocate's perspective: Learn about the enslavement model ("business model") of the proprietor (often a company, but sometimes not). There are plenty of scummy things software proprietors will often do (ex. data mining, restrictive ELUAs, etc).

From a general perspective: Simply find the practical disadvantages of the software compared to free alternatives (or a hypothetical free alternative).


elyersio OP wrote (edited )


From a (wannabe) rationalist's perspective: use the proprietary software and explore it with the scientific method, decide whether you want to keep using it

But about the Free Software advocate's perspective (because I am that too), how would one learn about the enslavement model?


thegnu wrote

For the rationalist side of things I would say read reviews, articles, etc on the advantages and disadvantages of the software. I say it in those more-or-less neutral terms because of the fact that that most articles on major news websites won't call it a "freedom violation" (although it is...), instead they'll label it as an inconvenience that the proprietor should revert, not realizing the issue is that their proprietor has the power to control the software in the first place. If that isn't good enough, and you'd like to explore it first hand, you should simply install it. Mess with it, try things, run benchmarks. If the two programs has file compatibility (ex. LibreOffice Writer and M$ Word) load a complex document on both and see how they perform in comparison. Little things like that can go a long way with measuring the performance of one software to the other. You could measure CPU usage (or whatever the programs may be using), measure load times, feature sets, etc. I personally use free alternatives to proprietary programs even when they are "inferior" (don't have this or that the proprietary program has), so I don't recommend actually using the program past the testing phase. That being said, I'm a radical and most people will want to find a nice balance between free and proprietary software.

The "enslavement model" is often how they make money. It depends on whether it's hardware or software. Apple notoriously locks down hardware that you buy from them with no chance of you ever installing you own OS without years of research (or a leak). With Google, and Microsoft as of late, it's been all about mining data. This is true for many companies that provide gratis (no cost) services. There are exceptions, however. If you want to learn about a specific company, I would be happy to list out bad things they've done. Richard Stallman actually has a great resource on his website, It's one of the first things you see, labeled "What's bad about: Company X, Company Y" etc.