27th October 2016
Most computers and computerised devices people use today run proprietary software. This means the vendor keeps the human-readable version of the program code secret, and possibly uses copyright or patent law to forbid studying or modifying the code.
This subverts the device owner's ability to control and maintain the device. The owner cannot understand how their device works. The owner cannot modify or maintain the code, nor can they employ a programmer to do so for them (because the code is kept secret from the programmer too). User is not only reliant on updates from the vendor, but subjected to them against their will (non-essential "feature-updates" are usually mixed up with essential "security-updates", forcing user to get feature-updates just to keep their device secure).
As a little example: remember in 2014 when Microsoft stopped releasing security updates for Windows XP, even though hundreds of millions of people were still using it. It was not possible for third-parties to provide security support, because Windows is proprietary software, with all the code kept secret. So users were forced to change operating system or buy a new computer to stay secure.
This subversion of the device owner's control is is bad because it's unprecedented before the age of computers and exclusively beneficial to the vendor.
People often use technology to obtain commercial, copyrighted media without paying for it. This makes it difficult for music and movie creators to get money for their work.
This subversion of the media publisher's profit model is bad because it is selfish and unprincipled behaviour. It is like theft.
Did British government ever delegate Alphabet Inc (an American public company, owner of Google) control and access to 90% of British email? No, but they have it because of the individual choices most British people made to use Gmail as their email provider.
If a government wants to implement censorship or search of online data, they have to negotiate with international mega-corporations not necessarily subject to local laws.
Facebook, Twitter and Google have more control over information than any government. They can censor information according to their own whims and sell your data to whomever they want.
This subversion of the government's control of information is bad because these mega-corporations are not held accountable to the people in the same way a government is. It is taken for granted that their main motive is to make themselves rich.
Bad hackers can subvert everybody by taking control of computers they don't own.
The "Internet of things" (the idea that all our "things" should be connected to the internet such as central heating, toasters, home security cameras and such) will give bad hackers plenty of stuff to mess up.
Obviously this is bad because it can be used for nuisance, sabotage or even war-fare.
Free Software is software that gives the user access to the code, and all the copyright permissions they need to study, modify and redistribute it.
The free software community has written huge amounts of Free Software. We have GNU/Linux distributions such as Debian for desktops and laptops, Android builds such as Lineage OS for phones, and plenty programs and apps for both.
And here in Europe we have the European Free Software Foundation to advocate and protect our software freedoms.
Read my blog post how to use Free Software to get started!
Just pay for movies and music like you're supposed to.
If you really can't afford to pay full price, there's a thriving second-hand DVD market so just wait until the movie is a few months old and get in in your local second-hand DVD store.
Also you may be able to get good prices for movies from online streaming services if you have enough bandwidth for such.
Don't use Gmail, Facebook or any of that ridiculous nonsense. For a British person to keep their email in America is like keeping your shoes on the moon. Use decentralized services running on local servers. Email, blogs and IRC are examples of good technologies that are not tied down to a single provider.
For email, there are three good options:
To replace Facebook and such, set up a blog. Then find a Feed-Reader program you like so you can subscribe to your friend's blogs. You can either:
Instant messaging can be done with IRC.
Cyber-crime is already totally illegal so just, er... don't do it please. It's not cool it's just annoying.