In Linux Format issue 124, page 77, I wrote about the Free Software Foundation's Windows 7 Sins page. Specifically, I gave my opinion that the page is too zealous and hyperbolic; that it makes the free software community look like irrational mouth-foaming Microsoft haters. I said that we should focus more on publicising GNU/Linux rather than bashing Microsoft.
A reader emailed me asking for more elaboration on what I dislike about the page - so here are some of the quotes on the page and why I think they don't work.
"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."
This is just too sensationalist. WGA is a royal pain in the rear, but the fact that this text doesn't elaborate on "inspect the contents of users' hard drives" shows that they're just trying to stir up fear. Many people would read that as "Ooh nasty Microsoft is reading all my private files" which is not the case. This is like the FUD that we in the community often accuse Microsoft of spreading.
"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."
I don't see the argument here - many companies offer Linux machines now. The mighty Dell sells Ubuntu boxes. Sure, MS is still dominant, but Dell isn't being "dictated" to. This might've been a valid argument ten years ago.
"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."
This one is way over the top. I don't know anyone, ever, who has "thrown away" a working computer because an old version of Windows has been EOLed. Users just go on using them, albeit with a security risks. Besides, Linux distro requirements inflate over time too, thereby "forcing" you to buy new kit (unless you want to run Damn Small Linux for the rest of your life).
"Microsoft has its own security interests at heart, not those of its users."
This tries to conjure up an image of a bunch of C Montgomery Burns-like businessmen cackling evilly in the heart of Redmond. "Silly users! Who cares about their security! Mwahahaha!"
Of course, it's totally wrong. Microsoft's security woes have been due to a huge, wobbly codebase with chunks from donkey's years ago, coupled with ten thousand different programming teams and twice as many Project Managers. There's no conspiracy - it makes no financial sense.
Look, I agree with the heart of many of the arguments on that site. I'm glad the issues are being raised. But we can have this debate without resorting to hyperbole, spin and tabloidesque language that simply turns away most level-headed observers. With a bit more balance and restraint, that could be a useful site - but right now I reckon it does us more damage than good.