Jeff Atwood has an article up today bemoaning the fact that seemingly nobody "gives a crap about freedom zero". Well, my initial reaction was that surely nobody could care about something with such a thoroughly ridiculous name. Freedom Zero? Really? I know this is the FSF's first freedom, and programmers count from 0 don'tcha know, but it's still rubbish.
But the real reason is that it simply isn't important enough to override everything else.
Certainly, for some things you want the freedom and reliability of open source. I write my essays in OpenOffice, I use Vim as my text editor for all programming languages other than C#, and I write maths papers with LaTeX. I want my personal output to remain usable and not at the whim of some company somewhere, I agree with all that.
But do I need my MP3 player to be open? No. My videogame console? No. My phone? No. My movie editor? No (though only because I always archive the source material). The irony is that people do indeed care about freedom - the freedom to choose, and the sad fact is that there is a certain type of zealot who only espouses freedom as long as it's their type of freedom. And that isn't freedom at all.
Now, as it happens, Linux is my operating system of choice. I don't own any Apple computers, though I do have a first-gen iPod Mini, which is distinctly showing its age. I use Vista for .Net development, but I don't think anyone could reasonably call me an Apple zealot or an anti-freedom capitalist whatever.
But you won't catch me criticising Apple for their closed platform. If it results in a decent product, I'm all for it. I used to have a G4 iBook and liked it a lot. When I'm in the market for an ultraportable later this year, I will give due consideration to the Mac Air.
A Mac is a product - calling the hardware nothing more than a dongle is a ridiculous argument. You can run Linux on Mac hardware, and OSX on non-Mac hardware (suboptimally, granted). Would you call a Ferrari Enzo a dongle because you need one in order to run the Enzo engine management software?
And it should be said that Apple isn't quite as closed as some people suggest - I can still install Firefox, Thunderbird, and other open source tools if I want to tackle the hostile internet with a trusted armoury. And OSX comes with things like Apache and SSH installed out of the box.
So do I give a crap about freedom zero? Only in as far as it suits my needs. If a piece of closed software does a better job, and the risk of losing data forever is within my tolerances, then sure I'll use it and I won't let ideology get in my way.
On the flip side, I care about interoperability, and I contribute or donate to a few open source projects, and will strongly oppose anything - legal or technological - that attempts to muscle open source out of existence. An open source tool deserves the right to compete. I use Amarok not because it's open, but because I like it more than iTunes. Conversely, I use Visual Studio not because it's proprietary, but because I prefer it to SharpDevelop.
Use the best tool for the job.