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Software Freedom: Why Should We Care? ( II )

September 15th, 2008 Comments off

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 is being presented here as a series of three posts: Concepts, Cases and Celebration. This post is the second post in the series where he discusses the benefits of software freedom.

Admin’s Note : A user comment on the first part of this article led Rangeen Chara to declare the contents presented in this web-site as free to use, redistribute and modify with the requirement that source and author/creator information be attached with the content.

The lack of software freedom causes three major problems. Firstly, we need to work hard to earn more to afford licensed copy of software, expensive because there are no alternatives, which is indirect harm to our productivity and financial capability. Secondly, since we are so entangled using these software, we barely want to learn new things and use alternatives even when they are available. We become victim of monopoly and the government at one time will be forced to invest millions of dollars in software when law is enforced and piracy is taken seriously by donors and multinational companies. To some extent, it is like giving few first doses of drugs for free. They want us to be captive of their vendor lock and razor blade model (sell razor for cheap, and later earn by selling blade to dependent customers).
Third and most prominent problem in my opinion is freedom. I always fail answering questions like: Am I free to use the software I own (You’d agree with me if you have ever read EULA before hitting “I Agree” button)? Is my privacy preserved/respected(do you know what your software is doing at background when you are surfing the web or creating a new document)? Am I free to modify this software (How could I, if I haven’t seen its source code or couldn’t reverse engineer it.)? Am I free to distribute/redistribute the software I own? (proprietary license doesn’t let us do so, I can not install it on N machines without paying money for N number of licenses.)
There are countless benefits of using Free Software. Many of you might be using it knowingly/unknowingly, Best examples I can portray here is that of the popular web browser Firefox. Also, most of the web’s back-end apache servers and Bind DNS servers are free software. The second popular OS gnu/linux is free software too.
Few years back, people used to complain about usability and aesthetics of free software but now free software have topped all the rankings. Even big corporations are shipping their hardwares with free software and gaining more profit and delivering less end price for user.
Thousands of freely available applications to choose from and wide user base makes open source software optimal for students, researchers and for other uses. If you want to migrate to free software, you can either start with a open source operating system like ubuntu or you can migrate softly by using open source softwares available for windows environment and later switching to free OS.

Author Information
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.

Categories: Uncategorized

Nepali Label in American Coke

September 14th, 2008 6 comments

Coca cola was one of the sponsor for Beijing Olympics 2008 and to mark the event, Coca Cola – USA had launched bottles with labels in different languages that people from different participating countries speak. The bottle label also had the participating country’s name in English so that one could figure what country the bottle represented.

I first observed the labels when I was drinking a can of coke with the label in Russian and later came across cans with Thai labels. I was wondering if bottles with Nepali label were also released and then finally came across one.

I was in Texas the previous week and that is where I got this opportunity to drink coke bottled in America but with Nepali label on it. The coke tasted much better! Nonsense it may sound to some, but it had the same “aafnopan” that Tara Nath Sharma tried to describe when he said he liked Nepali snow better than the ones he had played with in a foreign country.

If I was from China, the bottle would not mean a lot to me as almost all products have ‘Made in China’ labels on them. Seeing products with Devanagari script and Nepal together is of course a pleasing experience. Moreover, as Nepal did not win any medals in 2008 Olympics, the coke bottle is apparently the only thing I am left with to blog about this particular Olympics.

Categories: Uncategorized

Software Freedom : Why Should We Care?

September 12th, 2008 2 comments

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…

Author Information

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.

Categories: Uncategorized