04 Jul 2007 10:11:38
July 4th is a day to celebrate freedom. Freedom to control all that you own: yourself, your time, and what you produce. As the world moves into the future our lives will become more complex and managing one's posessions will become more difficult. Consider that the primary means to measure ownership is money. Yet our money is tied up in electronic storage facilities we access via the internet and magnetic strips. As time passes paper and metal will dissolve into digital signals. But other things such as our thoughts, images and memories are also stored digitally on servers and hard drives all over the globe. Moving into the future how will you access these essential parts of your being, the essence of your freedom?
Like so many others I'm certain that you have written and stored data on your computer that you would prefer not to lose: pictures, videos, documents, journals, emails, bank statements, financial records, reciepts and more. Do you have a back up plan for your data? I hope so.
For many neophyte users of computers there are no back up plans for this information. But even worse this data is stored in proprietary formats: Word Documents, Quicken Files, and MP3 and so forth. Consider that in order for you to open these documents and use them you have to purchase expensive controlled programs. But you don't actually own the programs. The licence you agree to at installation only gives you permsission to use that software under certain conditions.
If you own your data but you don't control the means to use that data what good is to you? If someone else can tell you how, when, where and by what means you can access your data do you own it?
We need to prepare ourselves by supporting file formats and data storage that is free, as in freedom. We need to educate ourselves about what formats are truly free from software patents and copyrights so we can store our data in formats that won't hamper our ability to access them in the future.
There is software availble that offers an alternative to "disabled" formats such as Word documents. The Free (as in freedom) Software Foundation is set up to defend your electronic freedoms. It has an operating system: GNU/Linux. And there are wonderful distributions of it that specialize in ease of use for consumers. All you need to do is try it.