Date: Mon, 17 May 2004 18:46:45 +0530
From: Aniruddha Shankar <karim(a)sarai.net>
Subject: FLOSS "Concept Booklet":Contributions/Criticism/Addenda solicited
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I work in a non-profit organisation (www.sarai.net) that is deeply
involved in and committed to Free/Libre/Open Source Software. We're in
the process of creating and publishing a Concept Booklet on
Free/Libre/Open Source Software that will, hopefully, be accessible even
to people with an extremely limited understanding of computers and
absolutely no knowledge of open source/free/libre software. In
collabroation with one such layperson, we created a set of questions on
free software and are in the process of generating the answers and the
additional content for the concept booklet. We'd be thrilled if you
people would contribute as many answers as you can to the questions that
we have outlined below. Of course, please feel free to comment on the
existing questions and to make additions to them.
All contributions will be gratefully acknowledged. The booklet will be
published under the Creative Commons/Share Alike License and distributed
free or at a nominal cost. We will, of course, be providing a full
version online, including print-quality PDFs.
This call for contributions from the wider community interested in
free/libre/open source software is an effort to extend the methodology
used in creating free software into the arena of collaborative
publishing. All contributions, no matter how small, trivial or obvious
they might seem, are extremely valuable to us. Please, do take the time
to read the questions and contribute, if possible. I apologise to those
who are subscribed to two or more of the lists to which this is posted
for the crosspost. Please feel free to forward this email to people or
entities that you feel might be helpful.
Intro / Concept:
What is free software?
Well tell me what's not " free" about other kinds of software?
So " free" means that I don't have to spend any money then?
How is Free Software actually made?
So how is this different from the production of other kinds of software?
So the term Free Software is a legal definition then?
What do you mean by " Copyleft" ? What's wrong with copyright? How is
Is this Copyleft against the law?
What does GNU GPL stand for?
If this software is free as you say then why do we need legislation to
What other licenses exist to protect Free Software?
Okay so I can see that Free Software is legal but surely if I duplicate
something that means that someone is losing out somewhere along the way?
History of F.S:
When did this whole Free Software thing start? How long have people been
using it for?
So Free Software actually pre-dates Microsoft?
So are you saying that in some ways the history of Free Software and the
internet run parallel to one another?
Okay, but now what is Linux? When did that come about?
So how this changed the development of software in general?
Who's this Stallman character then? Where does he fit into the picture?
How do you see the future development of Free Software?
How is Free Software actually made?
What kinds of people make Free Software?
But I still don't understand why anyone would want to give away their
work for free? What's in it for them!?
What do you mean by a Digital Commons?
In what ways could I benefit from involving myself in this Digital Commons?
Arguments for using F.S:
I'm still not convinced. Surely a big computer company knows best when
it comes to designing software? Why would I want to use software
designed by an amateur?
But what about bugs? Surely Free Software is more likely to be virus prone?
So you're saying that Free Software actually evolves at a faster pace
than closed software?
Software that can be modified actually runs better than closed software
Free Software is only something used by computer enthusiasts, right?
Have any established organizations actually used Free Software to their
Personal Relationship to F.S:
What kinds of problems might I expect to encounter using F.S?
Okay but why would I want to modify my software anyway?
Look, I'm no computer whiz! Isn't it easier for me to just use packaged
software? Who do I turn to when something goes wrong?
But how do I know I can trust someone not linked to a big company that
has a reputation to uphold?
Won't this cost me more than just calling someone out through the
help-line of an established computer company?
Well what do I have to lose from using Free Software?
Okay so how would I begin to install Free Software on my machine?
Aniruddha 'Karim' Shankar
The Sarai Programme
Key ID: 0xA037AD2B
Public Key Fingerprint:
9167 C0E7 A679 0906 7E47 83C0 8499 2B77 A037 AD2B
To get my public key, search http://pgp.mit.edu for my email id.
To directly import my key into your keyring, run
gpg --keyserver pgp.mit.edu --recv-keys A037AD2B .
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I am forwarding a message to show how the European Union's legal
policies are being hijacked by a few, in the teeth of strong public
Just see how strongarm lobbying is winning (at as of now) in the teeth
of opposition from an overwhelming majority.
Why is this relevant on this list?
Simple - the patent issue was re-opened in EU by the Irish republic,
which has a coalition government. The smaller parties, which wield
power disproportionate to its strength call the shots. One such party
has been `purchased' by a particular company, and they are effectively
dictating the terms here.
With cow-herds who proudly trumpet their ignorance about Information
Technology playing power-brokers and king (err queen) -makers at New
Delhi, we are situated in identical situation as the Irish republic.
And we have a serious additional disadvantage - lack of public
I request all of you to devote at least half an hour to discussing
philosophical issues and in particular, dangers from patents at the
next local user group meet.
----- Forwarded message from Mandrakesoft Team <return(a)mandrakesoft.com> -----
Date: Mon, 17 May 2004 17:10:30 +0200 (CEST)
From: Mandrakesoft Team <return(a)mandrakesoft.com>
Subject: Mandrakelinux NWL: Software patents - fresh news and call for action
Flash: Software patents - fresh news and call for action
As a follow-up to our latest flash regarding the upcoming decision of
the European Council to legalize software patentability in Europe,
here are some fresh news and information on what you can do to help.
If nothing changes, tomorrow, Tuesday May 18, the European Council,
that is, the European body which represents all the governments of the
European Union, will vote in favor of a directive that will legalize
software patents in Europe. Last September, faced with a similar
choice, the European Parliament voted major amendments to the
directive text drafted by the European Commission, actually rejecting
software patentability. However, the Council, ignoring all of these
amendments, is going to vote in favor of a text that is even worse
than the initial version of the Commission.
Why can the Council take a decision which will be so harmful to the
European software industry? Unlike the Parliament, which is a place
open to the public, where Members of the European Parliament have had
time to study the proposal and hear many positions on the issue in
order to take a well-thought decision, the Council is a closed body
where, due to the alledged complexity of the subject, representatives
of the governments have handed out the file to committees of experts.
These experts, who re-drafted the text and wrote position papers on
why to vote it, are in fact mostly representatives from the national
patent offices, backed by the heads of the legal departments of some
big industrial companies, all of whom have a common interest: more
patents mean more power for them, irrespective of the harm that will
be done to the economy at large, and even to their own companies. In
the name of "the Industry" and of "innovation", they manipulated the
political decision-makers to make them believe that the new text did
not allow to patent pure software, that it was a good compromise
between the Commission and Parliament texts, and that not all of the
parliamentary amendments could be kept because some of them were
illegal with respect to international treaties such as TRIPS. All of
this is plain lie.
In fact, if voted, the text of the Council would lead to a situation
where big companies with large patent portfolios use these to lock
their respective markets and prevent competition from innovative SMEs,
and where "intellectual property" companies that do not create any
software use their own patent portfolios to collect license fee rents
from everybody. This is the situation which is happening in the US,
putting at risk its successful software industry. This is what may
just happen in Europe in a few months.
However, it is not too late. Because of growing pressure from computer
professionals and from the public, and because they get more and more
feed-back from the media, political decision-makers begin to get aware
of the issues, and to have doubts about the sincerity of the patent
lobby. In some countries, they have taken the file back from the
and some countries of the Council have just decided to switch from a
voting procedure without debate to a voting procedure with debate, as
the text gets less and less consensus among the members of the
You can convince even more of them to reject software patentability.
In order to do that, please take some time to read about the issues at
stake, and spread the information across your friends and business
contacts, the press, your members of the parliament and your
government. It is essential that elected policy makers get back into
command of the situation and do not leave the patent offices decide
Here are some texts which can help you to present the issues to the
media and to convince policy-makers of all countries of the European
A very readable analysis by Fran?ois Pellegrini explaining the legal
and economic issues of software patentability:
A thorough analysis by Jonas Maebe of the difference between the three
versions of the directive, and why software patents are indeed illegal
with respect to TRIPS:
Positions of the member countries of the European Union:
http://swpat.ffii.org/akteure/ (add "pt", "ie", "fr",
"de", "be", "gr", etc to have the positions of the
The page of the FFII giving some directions for actions:
A recent paper published in the Washington Post describing the
current situation in the United States:
"Patenting Air or Protecting Property? Information Age Invents a New Problem"
31 companies sued for using the JPEG image format (the plaintiff filed
for a patent while recommending the adoption in international bodies
of a standard including its patented technology):
A US company sues companies of on-line content distribution:
A well-documented file on the reference site Law.com:
Thank you very much for your help.
Mandrakesoft Online Team.
----- End forwarded message -----
"Those willing to give up a little liberty for a little security
deserve neither security nor liberty"
Patents are back !!!!!
Hide if you can, they'll get you.
In direct contravention of the recent vote by the
European Parliament to curtail Software Patents, the
Irish Presidency of the European Union has
surreptitiously reinstated unlimited software patent
language into the text of a statement to be adopted by
the European Council of Ministers on Monday, May 17,
without further debate!
The new text, if adopted, will extend Software Patents
to every piece of software, including computer
programs, data structures, and process descriptions.
This will directly harm most software firms and all
Open Source projects unable to pay patent licensing
tribute, and amounts to an appropriation of the public
domain by proprietary interests. A direct beneficiary
will be a new class of pure patent companies without
any real business or contribution to employment, which
will use the threat of litigation to extort payments.
Of note is that a sponsor of the Irish Presidency is
Microsoft, currently building a large patent
portfolio. If the Software Patent text is adopted,
Microsoft may use this patent portfolio against Linux
and other Open Source projects.
Software patents back on the horizon after EU leaders
ignore the vote of MEPs:
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--- Sajith T S <sajith(a)symonds.net> wrote:
> Rakesh 'arky' Ambati wrote:
> > The project has been renamed Hymn, according to
> > Babu, the maintainer of the project. It is being
> > hosted on two sites by a US-based hosting service
> > provider.
> Where is Hymn hosted?
Just found this news update. The project has been
renamed Hymn, according to Anand Babu, the maintainer
of the project. It is being hosted on two sites
(http://playfair.org/ and http://hymn-project.org) by
a U.S.-based hosting service provider. Babu said last
month that the project would be hosted outside the
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Ramanraj K <ramanraj(a)md4.vsnl.net.in> wrote ..
> I just tried using Knoppix 3.3 that came with the May issue of
> LinuxForYou. Looks like good free software!
Warning - not all of Knoppix is Free Software. Some things like acrobat reader (4.0) aren't free software.
That said, it's possible to use only the free parts and have a fully functional system. Knoppix 3.4 just came out last week also and it supports even more hardware than 3.3. The live-CD is a wonderful thing for introducing people to free software.
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DID: +603 2091 5169 Fax: +603 2093 9740
UNDP Asia Pacific Development Information Programme:
Its a good one. I liked it too. I have always closely watched their work.
Knoppix like projects could help us get over with preinstalled proprietry
software. I consider it to be very good work. A good ambassador to our
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Post your CV on naukri.com today.
Great to have an enthu response to my mail from you.
On building the masses ... atleast we agree that masses need to be built.
Let agree to disagree. You build the mass your way, i will build it my way;
with mutual respect for the philosophy.;)
I repeat again and again. You and many others are misquoting me. I never
mean to say that Free Software is not good or it is not tending to be good.
Philosophically speaking it sounds great talking about the fact that
"promote the philosophy and good software follows" .... Its like saying
promote the brand name and products will follow. Sell promises the action
will follow. Show rosy pictures stuffed with philosophy, the dreamland will
follow. An idealistic society with FREEDOM for all and everyone will
understand on their own.
Social Change ... on its own. History is witness ... aggressors gain
resources, promote philosophies, accumulate knowledge and are remembered.
REST are a part of never existant idealistic society of Socrates. A
No friend, the actions speak louder than words. Give them free good
software, you will not need to support the philosophy. The philosophy will
travel on its own.
I will give you an example here ... Linux happened and people saw the
potential and RMS was able to push the philosophy, first in a very minority
community writing some "GOOD" software, then they were able to promote their
philosophy because of their work with some GOOD Software and attain wider
Lets agree to disagree here. I strongly believe that philosophies are duds
without followers and philosophies turn into mass revolutions only when
promoted to show an effect on masses. I am not saying Linux and other Free
software projects are not doing that; neither i have anywhere said that Free
software philosophy is flawed. Both can be promoted concurrently and you
cant ignore either of them. Still statistics dont support that philosophy is
seeping in. (I dont mean i dont understand the philosophy)
When this thread started, it was because there was this respected end user
called Mr Rammanohar Reddy (Editor, The Hindu); who genuinely tried working
with Linux and dumped it for Windows after 1 month of frantically trying to
set his Display of KDE right.
The moment i tried to put his mail across to the list ... we had responses
like "I dont Care" ; "Who cares till i am happy" ; to hell with what Mr
Rammanohar thinks". What a way to promote a philosophy.
Another wonderful hilarious way is .. I am happy, my friend called Mr. NASA
and Mr. ISP is happy. Now i dont care whether kids are following it or not;
whether schools are teaching it or not; whether journalists, doctors,
lawyers and each one of them out there is using free software or not. I am
happy till philosophy is realised but i wont use good free software as an
agent to promote the philosophy. My question is friend ... then how will you
do it ... Come on lets do 10,000 road shows singing the philosophy. Lets see
how many switch. [ ;) though i dont mind doing 1 or 2 .. lol ]
Whenever i come across ancdotes and examples of being happy with Free
software, they are from our highly enlightened friends (FSF evanglists and
Open Source guys - Primarily techos). I am yet to see very happy masses.
Good Free Software is the ambassador for our philosophy.
Just to add to your experience with Laptops, 2 months back i bought a Sony
and got Linux preinstalled on demand; i succeded where you failed. But i
really dont care about my own experience or your experience with Linux and
free software because you and me are a MINORITY - a small drop in the ocean.
What is important is that the masses start thinking what you and me think.
The philosophy is not promoted by "I dont care" attitutes. A sad thing is
that from so many days we have been discussing this issue ... Everyone seems
to catch the FREE vs GOOD debate but manages to miss the point. The point is
that ..... An end user is not happy. Lets get togather and help him out. By
doing this we are not hurting the philosophy but supporting it by our
The RED HAT thing, i will explain again .. they are launching servers ...
price range $1000 to $3500. It just the start, then comes the services bug
in terms of more software. Though open source, completely open source. Is
this what Free sofware all about ... RMS please comment !! Who are they? the
Red Hat people .. how did they start? Who knows it better than RMS?
As per you billions will never be affected by "free/non-free nonsense";
Friend there are thousands of philosophies that are born and die every
single day, the ones who attain critical mass are the ones which evolve and
are fiercely promoted ... For how many more years are we going to hide under
the garb of saying ... "It is just a start" .... GNU project was launched
in 1984 .. its already 20 years ... Its not a start anymore.
ITS TIME TO GAIN CRITICAL MASS !!
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>From: Harish Narayanan <harish(a)gamebox.net>
>To: Tarun Gaur <gaur_tarun(a)hotmail.com>
>Subject: Re: FREEDOM, PHILOSOPHY and FREEDOM SOFTWARE
>Date: Fri, 07 May 2004 19:12:55 -0400
>I can't help it, I better get these out of the way,
>- Curious, why do you keep switching to all capital letters at arbitrary
>points. It doesn't add to clarity, but I keep interpreting it as you're
>- Why don't you continue responses without changing the subject line?
>- Again, freedom is a noun. Freedom software sounds very odd
>- The reason that email you forwarded aggravated many people, was the way
>in which it was suddenly thrust in. A little bit of etiquette can go a long
(Interpretation is subject to the index of one's own mind, still respecting
your opinion i will not use capital letters, though sometimes you have to be
loud to reach some deaf ears)
I am not really worried about your obsession with nouns and verbs ... and
neither did i thrust anything on anyone. It was not a junk proprietry
windows source code that i forwarded or a secret note describing the rigging
in American elections ... it was a simple mail describing an end user's
experience with linux. I was not contesting the philosophy in this mail,
nevertheless it seems like it is useless discussing it anymore ... cause i
think very few are concerned on what is the importance of a good end user
experience with free software and its relation to promotion of the
>No one is misquoting anyone. Either your usage of words or tone seem to
>mean or imply that free software as it is today is lacking. You keep
>talking about, for instance,
Misquoting was a subtle expression ... seems like understanding the concern
is a bit difficult for you here.
>- "improving" to attract the masses,
>- asking everyone to see it as an end user as opposed to a hacker (I safely
>assumed this meant, hackers to some extent are more familiar with the
>internals, so can deal easier with software that is superficially
>- the end user is not happy, or
>- plugging all the holes so that the business men will be comfortable using
>From these, among other things, some people will tend to make assumptions
>regarding what you're trying to say. Maybe it is a fundamental
>As I've explained in another reply on another thread (because my mail
>client likes to sort it like that), I bought my computer a while ago.
>Things have changed in the recent past. But none of that matters, it isn't
>too hard to wipe a hard drive. I was just trying to portray the hold
>monopolies can have on vendors, and consequently the mind share they have
>amongst users. If a person hadn't seen anything else, they'd be just as
>happy with GNOME, KDE, Mac OS, Windows, BeOS, or whatever for basic needs
>when introduced to them. It's when all you've ever seen and previously
>worked on is, say, Windows, you will likely go with the most familiar even
>when handed a choice. Even at the extent of loss of freedom.
Were we talking about monopolies of the vendors .. I think here mahesh
agrees with me ... it was a matter of choice that i excercised and you did
>RedHat is doing exactly what free software from a corporate perspective is
>all about. They sell entirely free software at large markup, purely for the
>peace of mind their support offers to big companies. There is nothing
>preventing you, an individual, who will not want to spend the 3500$, from
>obtaining any of it for free, studying it, modifying it, distributing it,
>and of course, expanding upon it.
>[ http://www2.uibk.ac.at/zid/software/unix/linux/rhel-rebuild.htm ]
>They've done more than most other companies ever will for the growth of
>free software. For years they've allowed anyone and everyone to download
>the huge ISO images of fully free distributions fully free of charge, for
>instance. Who pays for their bandwidth? How do they survive if they can't
>charge for services and support centered around their products as well? If
>you find it exorbitantly expensive, find another source for your software.
>That is what choice is about. If no one buys it, they will have to lower
>their prices or die naturally. Don't criticize or get angry, just let your
>choices do the talking.
>[ http://www.redhat.com/about/mission/business_model.html ]
Seems like you have something to do with Red Hat. Are you working for them
or sell Red hat boxes ... Just plain curious (like you were .. not changing
the subject lines)
If you are not ... it would really help the philosophy and the cause for you
to focus on GNU/FSF.
>If you give an average person a very good program that satisfies their
>immediate requirements, they will use it. If it were free, it would be
>free, if it weren't, then it wouldn't be. I have an old Mandrake box at
>home which does everything my parents need, and which I can administer
>remotely. Let's assume I haven't told them anything about the freedom
>they're consequently enjoying. All they know is that they aren't paying for
>it, it works well, and that while their friends get affected by viruses and
>worms, they have no problems receiving email from their son. Where in this
>was the philosophy communicated? If tomorrow the hard drive were to crash,
>and the local computer man were to install Windows, they will adjust to it
>and use it. I'm trying to indicate that philosophy and social implications
>are bigger than just free software.
Sorry again here friend, but seems like you have graduated from your
experience to your parents experience. I am talking about the generation
maturing, the generation that is using XP and similar proprietry software.
Give me a break. I repeat "you" and "I" are a MINORITY. We need to promote
philosophy by using good free software as an ambassador to reach them and
gain critical mass.
You seem to pick up sentences that suit a useless argument ... ignoring the
importance of good end user experience everytime.
Did I ever say that philosophy is not imprortant. But i did say that free
software is an ambassador of our philosophy. And philosophy and good free
software compliment each other.
>Give them good free software and they will use it, sure. The software will
>travel on it's own. This, and the communication of ideals aren't
>necessarily linked. They are using it because it's good. Give them free
>software and explain to them why being free makes it inherently good, and
>they will still use it. But more importantly, the ideals have also spread.
>I am willing to take my chances on another kernel stepping up to the plate
>even if the Linux kernel hadn't filled a hole in the GNU system. It might
>have taken more time to reach the level of adoption we see today (or maybe
>even less if it were even more popular for some reason), but it would have
>happened independent of Linux. Point being, there would have been someone
>who valued all this (and was skilled enough) to write things that worked to
>fill this void.
>And all this about fierce promotion, gaining critical mass, mass revolution
>and things like that. I really wish to know what it is your aim for all of
Please elaborate on what do you mean by "What my aim is" ... still i will
answer ... My aim is to ensure that end user experience - especially
negative is not repulsed. They are helped and philosophy reaches the masses
through each one of them ... each single one of them.
Its not a start anymore ... Its time to reach critical mass.
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You are missing the point here again. It is not the words that matter.
I, like you also believe that software has to be free but i strongly contest
the fact that people who do not embrace it dont matter to us. They do matter
and we have to make them understand why FREEDOM, FREE software and FREE GOOD
SOFTWARE (is important). Just because we believe in freedom does not mean
that we do not listen to what they have to say.
Now, Please read my previous note again and tell me where i have said that
end user is unintelligent, does not understand or does not value freedom
The very fact that he is intelligent is an indication enough for us to
convince him rather than show "I dont care, they will learn by themselves"
We need to educate - rather make them aware; of our philosophy and i am sure
each one of them feels as strongly for Freedom as you and I do.
Sometimes as an analyst you have to keep yourself away from your own beliefs
and philosophies and try and compare and criticize what you think might not
be correct ...
And here what i feel is that we need to value the opinion of " Intelligent
end users" and be our own ciritics at every point as that would help us plug
the holes and evolve.
You took the discussion to "Intellectual Property Rights" and Free Software
and morals and ethics of it. I think we all ... we all understand freedom,
FSF and Free software very well.
As per me the entire IT community put togather is not more than 2% of the
world's population. We need to come out of the technical closet and think
about the rest 98% of the world and how we can make them adopt our
philosophy and software.
And trust me for that, we dont have a choice ... WE HAVE TO BE GOOD and we
are good, then why not be supportive rather than being dismissive to the
"Intelligent End Users".
I can also say ... I like Free Software because .... Reason 1 ...... to
Reason 100. But i dont because i am more concerned and focussed to see that
Free Software Philosophy penetrates to the masses. Once it does, you will
see it everywhere.
I again highlight; whenever we see someone saying that I have a problem with
Free Software ... rather than shooting the guns at him, ask him if we could
help restore his faith and then go and help him. This is in the best
interest of our philosophy, cause philosophies are duds without followers.
Remember, It is not you and me that decides what is good ... it is the
majority and the facts.
We are good, brilliant people ... we write amazing codes ... we just need to
make them a bit more simple. We are doing it slowly but surely.
I am not contesting here on Freedom or good or bad. I am contesting that we
cant ignore 210 million people and more. We need to make them understand,
enlighten them, educate them and we cant do this by shooing them away.
In the proprietry world, companies like IBM, RED HAT and numberless others
used Free Software Fundamentals to manouvere against Microsoft and another
entry is Novell. Now these companies are also people and look at how others
and Red Hat moved to take a big market share, riding on open source. What
are we doing sitting and allowing them to manouvere and criticizing people
cause they say that free software evangelists are deaf if not dumb.
Its a simple thing friends, entertain criticizm, consult, discuss and do
something about it; even if it means contesting RMS opinion. He sure started
it but its freedom what it is all about .. right?
Bottomline, BECOME A MASS MAJORITY RATHER THAN PHILOSOPHICAL MINORITY.
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