September 20th is being celebrated worldwide as software freedom day. Ankur Sharma, a Nepali Software Freedom activist, has sent an article to promote awareness regarding software freedom. His article will be presented here in the coming week as a series of three posts: Concepts, Cases and Celebration. This post is the first one in the series where he introduces the concepts of software freedom.
To understand the concept of software freedom, consider the following two cases:
Case I: If I want to start a Coca-Cola like company, There are a number of problems I have to face. I don’t know how coke is made (ingredient, process etc). Even if I figure it out, I don’t have freedom to make and distribute it. I also lack adequate capital and resources to compete with such a big company.
Case II: I am thirsty and want to have a cold drink, I have choices. I can have coke (paying few cents for drink + much more as royalty for using proprietary bottle) or I can have soda (remember those days at New Road Ranjana galli ?) and pay much less (few cents for drink + few cents for the service of the soda filler and shop) or yet I can settle for home-made lemonade. I do have coke when I have enough money in my pocket otherwise I can settle for soda. But, when at home I go for lemonade.What a freedom lemonade offers, I can add as much sugar and lemon as I desire, I can immediately add a glass of water if a friend shows up at the door .
But what about software? What about stack of application we use on our console to perform everyday task? In context of Nepal, we have been left without choice, we were taught BASIC as first programming language, Windows as the only operating system and we were trained to run our everyday task whether it be academic, enterprise or hobby in a non-free environment. We are so privileged, we don’t have to pay even a percentage of original software prices. We load our system with loads of application that are shareware, demos, freeware or pirated copies(games, office packages, video editors, programming IDEs and even OS). We are getting illegally copied coke at a price lower than that for lemonade and won’t have to worry about getting caught or penalized because everybody here are the same. Even law makers and keepers do the same. Regardless of being governmental offices, public/private enterprises, home users, most use pirated copies of software. We were taught moral values and ethics in school along with software piracy.
Major question then is about alternatives. I would prefer to ride a bicycle (free softwares with less functionality) rather than riding cheap, unethically stolen motorbike (pirated/proprietary/bloated commercial softwares). The fact is that alternatives exist in software. Most of the time, free softwares are far more faster, compatible, tweak-able, cheaper (even free of cost) than propriety counterparts. Collectively, such softwares which respect and preserve user freedom are “Free Softwares”. Here free is not to be confused with price. Free is free as in freedom of speech, not free as in free beer. Free software basically defines itself within 4 freedom (freedom to run, freedom to study, freedom to distribute and freedom to improvise and distribute the software.) Generally speaking, free versions of all most all proprietary software are available. They come with less number of bugs and with large user community support.
To be continued…
Ankur Sharma completed his Bachelor in Engineering (CS) from Nepal Engineering College in 2006. His final year project with Shankar Pokharel, titled “Mero Sanu Sathi”, went on to collaborate with One Laptop Per Child Project. At one time, he served as a technical lead and General Secretary for One Laptop Per Child Nepal collaborating with Nepal Government to successfully deploy OLPC laptops on selected government schools. He has been FOSS activist since 2004 participating actively as a resource person for raising awareness and facilitating migration of Free Software in Nepal.