-------- Forwarded Message --------
From: Frederick Noronha (FN) <fred(a)bytesforall.org>
To: LIG <linux-india-general(a)lists.sourceforge.net>
Subject: FN'sEyeOnFLOSS *** Oct 28, 2005 * IOSN booklets... FLOSS and
disaster... five reasons... Yash from Mauritius... BytesForAll...
Date: Fri, 28 Oct 2005 12:36:07 +0530
FN's Eye on FLOSS (Free/Libre and Open Source Software ........
IOSN's BOOKLETS AVAILBLE FOR DOWNLOAD
Free/Open Source Software: A General Introduction by Kenneth Wong and
Phet Sayo is a 60-page booklet, part of the Asia-Pacific Development
Information Programme's e-Primers series. What makes it interesting is
not just that it is written in a simple and easily-accessible style,
but also the fact that it is freely downloadable. (From www.iosn.net
Its preface calls the Free and Open Source (FOSS) movement
one of the "new technologies and ... new opportunities...
that is playing out before us today". It also calls it many
things at the same time. Including, a "revolutionary
development process, disruptive technology, ideological
movement, new knowledge and standards, and more".
This primer launched the series which is focussed on the FOSS movement.
One would prefer the use of the term FLOSS, since the "libre" concept
is obviously a crucial one here. But then, the power of the corporate
world is such that they define concepts and one has little choice on
whether it should be Linux (rather than GNU/Linux), Open Source rather
than Free Software, and FOSS rather than FLOSS.
That apart, this book contains some useful material.
It starts off with definitions: about the Free Software Foundation, the
Open Source Initiative, the FOSS development method (reduced
duplication of effort, building upon the work of others, better quality
control, and reduced maintenance costs), and a brief history of FOSS.
Then we go to the meat of the issue: why FOSS?
Also: Is FOSS free? How large are the savings from FOSS? What are the
benefits of using FOSS (security, reliability and stability, open
standards and vendor independence, reduced reliance on imports,
developing local software capacity, reduced 'piracy', localization
There's the other side of the balance-sheet presented too: what are the
shortcomings of FOSS?
This primer admits to the lack of business applications, hassles when
it comes to inter-operability with some proprietary systems, and
limitations on the availability of documentation and the 'polish' with
which products are presented.
From there, we go to FOSS success stories. These are pointers
to projects where large governments (or supra-governments
like the European Union) took strongly pro-FOSS policies.
There are studies from The German Bundestag servers, the city
of Munich, the experiences in France, UK's policies on FOSS
procurement, and the migration to FOSS in the city of Turku
From the Americas success storiasia, es come from
California, Texas and
Oregon -- even if the pro-FOSS laws were still to be passed at
of writing. Then, there's Peru, Brazil, and, in Asia, China, India,
Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia and Japan.
Wong and Phet, who obviously have a good overview of the subject
they're writing about, shift to some successful FOSS projects. These
include Bind (the DNS server, without which internet addresses such as
or even microsoft.com
would not function), the Apache web
server, the Sendmail email server, the secure network administration
tool OpenSSH, and the Open Office productivity suite.
Richard M Stallman, the father of the Free Software Movement and a
guest of the International Open Source Network, would probably be happy
with a section of this book(let) that explains the difference between
the "Linux" buzzword, and the concepts like GNU/Linux. Newbies to this
entire idea are told about where they can download GNU/Linux from --
don't try unless you have a fat pipe to the internet, it's just easier
to very-legally make copies of a distro that someone else has. Issues
like download time, installation and compiling time, quality assurance
and learning time are also very briefly touched on.
With so much packed in a small book, you might just realise that we've
still only reached half-way through the title.
Quite rapidly, the authors shift to more complex issues -- licensing
arrangements, the GNU General Public License, BSD-style licenses, and
issue like whether FOSS can be combined with proprietary software.
We move on to localisation ("the process of creating or adapting a
product to a specific locale, i.e. to the language, cultural context,
conventions and market requirements of a specific target 'market'),
methods for localizing, and a case-studies of FOSS in government and
Having seen how some of this works on the ground, it might be risky to
rely solely on the printed word to judge how things work in this field.
For instance, a more thorough evaluation of the Goa Schools Computer
Project (or, Goa Computers in Schools Project, as it has also been
called) stills awaits being done. And it would be best done by someone
who has empathy and appreciates the potential, without necessarily
being a close observer-participant as this reviewer has been.
Finally, we end with a glossary... much-needed for a subject
as geeky as this. There's also a list of interesting URLs of
different GPL compatible and incompatible software licenses.
As noted above, what makes this book different is not just that yoiu
are free to "copy, distribute and display" it, but also make derivative
works from it and make commercial use of this work. Further, the
authors are generous in crediting all the persons whose work, comments,
feedback and copyedits went into creating this work. We are reminded at
the end about the agendas of the two UNDP-linked institutions that
brought it out (www.apdip.net
Clearly, there's no reason why this needs to be read by both those
gung-ho and those skeptical about the potential of FOSS. You can't
claim that the costs (there's none) or lack of access (it's just a URL
away) kept you from reading it. -- Frederick Noronha, October 2005.
PROMINENT SPEAKERS EXPECTED FOR FOSS.IN:
Atul Chitnis <listadmin(a)linux-bangalore.org> announces that
the overseas speakers will include: Jonathan Corbet,
co-author of "Linux Device Drivers", and editor of LWN.NET
aka "Linux Weekly News"; Andrew Cowie of Linux Australia;
Harald Welte, who's chairman of the netfilter/iptables
project, and the man behind GPLviolations.org
"Mr.Wizards-of-OS" Volker Grassmuck; the man behind the
Apache project, COLLAB.NET's Brian Behlendorf; "Mr.PHP"
Rasmus Lerdorf; the Diva of Open Source, Danese Cooper;
Yahoo!'s Jeremy Zawodny; the man behind Linux Sound and Audio
Dave Phillips; and the legendary hacker Alan Cox.
FOSS.IN/2005 is a major Free/Libre & Open Source Software
Event Nov 29 to Dec 2, 2005
Bangalore Palace. http:// foss.in/2005
FIGHTING DISASTER, THE FLOSS STYLE:
Chamindra de Silva <chamindra(a)opensource.lk> informs that
Sahana phase I is currently being deployed in Pakistan
together with the support of NADRA (National Database and
Registration Authority) of Pakistan, IBM Crisis Response Team
and IBM Pakistan. NADRA has a comprehensive people database
as they build and maintain the central system that maintains
the registration of people (identity card, passport, etc). In
Pakistan, however the system is not web based and under tight
security controls. Thus Sahana fills the gap of making the
data accessible to the other organizations involved in the
relief effort such as the NGOs. Apart from that NADRA does
not have the equivalent of the request management system and
organization registry which is built into phase 1. This is
what the integrated system should look like this:
The deployment model presented by us can be found at
Chamindra is keeping notes and lessons learned on this
deployment at the Reliefsource wiki at
* * * * * * * * * *
Shahzad Ahmad <shahzad.ahmad(a)isb.iucnp.org> writes: "Just
sharing this news item. The Tsunami fame, [Free/Libre and]
Open Source Software product SAHANA is already almost
deployed by Chamindra de Silva with support from the IBM
crisis response team and NADRA (National Database Registry of
Pakistan). PSEB was also extending support to them I
remember. The difference here... SAHANA yet has to hit the
media while Microsoft is already getting coverage."
Microsoft offers technological assistance in
Representative hands over monetary assistance to PM and
MKRF By Schezee Zaidi, The News, 21/10/2005
* * * * * * * * * *
Irfan Khan <khania(a)super.net.pk> says: For updates on the deployment of
Sahana in Pakistan, check recent entries in
Sanjiva Weerawarana's Blog
Geek with an attitude (Buddhika Siddhisena's Blog)
FIVE REASONS WHY: 5 reasons not to use GNU/Linux,
especially when compared to Windows.
[Thanks for the link to Justin Joseph <justin_joseph007(a)yahoo.com>
THIS ISSUE'S PROFILE: Yash <yash(a)vfemail.net> is a Systems
Engineer with an entrepreneurial spirit based in Mauritius.
He founded the first and only Ruby User Group locally --
Rubidius. Earlier this year he "predicted that the future of
web apps will be based on Ruby on Rails."
Says Yash: "My interests lie in Business, Free and Open
Source Software, Optimizing Business Processes and
Investments, Music and technology in general. Favourite
GNU/Linux distro: Yoper. Favourite programming language: Ruby
(you'd have guessed that). I started programming with an Oric
Atmos using self-taught BASIC. Today I'm more interesting in
the strategic management issues of I.S. and Business
HELP FOR A WEBSITE, IN HINDI: Shubhranshu Choudhary
<smitashu(a)gmail.com> is working on a People's Website of Chattishgarh,
and he got useful for some of his technical problems from Indic
computing guru G Karunakar.
"Shu" has been trying to put in "as much matter in Hindi as
possible". They use the Hindi Mangal Unicode as font for the
site, due to go online in early November. Shu
says: " I am having huge difficulty with content in various
different fonts in Hindi. My friend Sudhir Gore of India
Today Delhi had sent me a TBIL converter from Microsoft which
is working for few fonts. I also trying to work with
Parivartan which came with the CD given by Govt of India. But
I have not been able to make it work yet."
I assume you are trying to convert texts composed
in different fonts to Unicode, so what would be
first needed is which fonts are those texts in.
There exist few convertors
There is one here, which converts to ISCII
ISCII can be converted to utf-8 (the encoding in which you
have to keep webpages) using the attached script. There is
also more convertor scripts at
(I am cc'ing to the developer Swapnil Hajare - he could help
with specific issues).
For info on using Hindi on internet read
Typically if your users are sending content in lots of fonts,
maybe better to identify a small set (5-6) fonts in which you
could accept contributions in. Most of the above scripts are
[GNU]Linux based, I guess we need to do a simple app. which
can do the conversions without users having to fiddle with
scripts (will try to get someone volunteer for that).
Karunakar's links: * Work: http://www.indlinux.org
* Blog: http://cartoonsoft.com/blog
NEWS FROM BELGAUM (NORTH KARNATAKA)
Nitin Bilgi <nbbbgm(a)rediffmail.com> writes from GITLUG: "Hi
Fred, We have not got in touch with you since long time. I
saw you article in Linux For You October 2005 issue about the
LUG and about Goa lug. We at GIT, as you know started the
LUG in 2002 by me with dedicated students. In 2003 we
conducted a meet which you attended. In 2004, there was a
lull. In 2005, we have activated again with help of dedictaed
student friends. On October 22, 2005 we conducted a one-day
workshop on LAMP by Dr Satish Annigeri of BVB College Hubli.
It was attended by nearly 200 participants. I will send ...
details about our future events." Do keep in touch, Nitin and
others. Also see this network for small GLUGs/LUGs/FSUGs in
BATTLEGROUND OF IDEAS:
Battleground of ideas: FLOSS debate raises tempers at BytesForAll
BytesForAll's mailing list recently played host
to a strong, and at times polemical, debate on
proprietary-versus-FLOSS (Free/Libre and Open Source
Software). In this debate, there were these couple of great
posts here  and here , that put things neatly in
perspective -- thanks to David Geilhufe who is co-founder of
 and Sunil Abraham of
It all started with a rather critical-of-FLOSS post by
University of Manchester's Dr Richard Heeks  offering a
link to an eDevelopment Briefing titled "Free and Open Source
Software: A Blind Alley for Developing Countries?" .
It calls the 1980s shareware "FOSS forerunner" to have had
"zero" impact, says data from Africa shows only five percent
of computers "in developing countries" have any Open Source
software running on them, and notes that proprietorial
software dominates "even in Cuba... where the US embargo
should make conditions highly propitious".
Besides, the briefing says that "piracy" and the "limited
size of initial purchase price within total cost of software
ownership" there is actually no "evidence of FOSS delivering
Says the briefing: "In particular, proprietary software may
not be open source but it is certainly free for the great
majority of developing country users, thanks to piracy." It
points to the lack of awareness of FOSS in Africa, and the
lack of international links needed to be part of an "active,
global community of like-minded developers".
One early response to this brief text came from BytesForAll
co-founder Frederick "FN" Noronha and is here for viewing
It argues, "The "5% of computer systems" overlooks the role
played by FLOSS in servers, in keeping the Internet running,
in giving unprecedented access to developers of the Third
World to take part in a global movement, and more." This
study, argues this post, overlooks the potential of FLOSS in
large 'developing' countries like India, China, Brazil and
South Africa. It points to another study -- from Finland --
which it says is more open to the benefits of FLOSS in the
"developing" world. See
FN also adds, "By saying 'proprietorial software is free' for
the bulk of the 'developing' world, the study is guilty of
both tolerating/encouraging the illegally copying of software
('piracy' is a loaded term, unfortunately accepted by
academia too) and missing the essence of what Free Software
is all about (offering the freedom to be used, copied,
studied, modified and redistributed). We are not fighting
just for the right to remain 'pirates'...."
Richard "RMS" Stallman, founder of the Free Software
Foundation joining in the debate with these comments. 
There was a longish debate on benchmarking FLOSS. Javier
Sola, a Spanish-Chilean working on Khmer language
localisation in Cambodia, added some interesting points .
Javier, who works with APC member the Open Forum of Cambodia,
argues: "Academics should make sure that they look at all
factors when they write something like this. In this case the
author has not come even close to it. He has, among others,
completelly ignored the power of localisation, diminished as
"techies and amateurs" some of the people that have clearer
ideas of what is needed for real migration and used
anectdotal data for his conclusions."
Sunil Abraham argues how proprietorial software could kill --
no exaggeration, due to its delays and restrictions -- in a
post-Tsunami situation. He also argues that "because Sahana
(a Free/Libre and Open Source Software project to cope with
disasters) is FOSS, the earthquake stricken people from
Pakistan and India don't have to spend money earmarked for
food on software." Then, in an almost tongue-in-cheek Sunish
manner, he argues that FLOSS "increases the responsiveness of
an organisation. This is important whether it is peoples
lives or greater profits." 
David Geilhufe has this very interesting response to argue
that FLOSS offers "viral diffusion" (to enable its
uncontrolled spread, of course in a positive way), local
control and lower barriers to entry. Well put, and very well
Here's  what David argues eloquently: "There is no
religious war here, but I think the staunch defenders of
proprietary code get stuck on analyzing the software... this
isn't the important part. One needs to analyze the innovation
and use of software... that, I believe, is where the real ICT
David's Social Source Foundation  is here. It is "a
nonproft organization that exists to create open source,
mission-focused technology for the nonprofit and NGO sector."
Another link is the OpenNGO.org
 network. OpenNGO calls
itself "an open source project to create a set of web-based
tools designed to meet the needs of small U.S. nonprofit
organizations and non-governmental organizations across the
Meanwhile, another strong debate continued at the Global
Knowledge for Development mailing-list, visible at the
archives here . Some supported Heeks views, while others
said academia was missing the point on FLOSS.
Said Mark Davies (mark(a)busylab.com): "As an African business,
and as an African software development business, I still
don't get it. There's so much enthusiasm for FOSS, there's so
much conference mind-share spent on this topic, and yet I
don't see an illuminating discussion about the opportunities
for risk/reward for people like us." 
After facing a lot of counterpoints, Heeks responded: "You
can read this message in two ways: either that FOSS will
never deliver; or that the FOSS community needs to rethink
its strategies. Or, of course, if you've devoted months or
years to FOSS and don't like the message, you'll try to
denigrate the writer, deny the data, and so forth." 
Klaus Stoll the president of Fundacion Chasquinet  in
Quito, Ecuador also swam against the tide. He wrote: "...yes,
my organization Chasquinet Foundation works with Microsoft
and yes it is the same organization that produced and
published the Open Source tollbox for Telecenters in Latin
America  and yes we have as a policy in our organization
that people should have a right to choose. What counts for us
here at the grassroots are real ICT tools for Development, be
they open source or otherwise, what counts is if they make a
real positive impact in improving peoples lives."
African NGO Kaibassa argued here: "We at Kabissa have a
very practical orientation and don't really push Open Source
in our trainings or through our services and Web site unless
it's just staring in our faces as just plain better. Open
Source Content Management Systems and other server-based
tools and desktop applications like Firefox and Thunderbird
spring straight to mind. In the meantime, I hope you and
other software developers in Africa are aware of and
considering attending Africa Source II."
But one key perspective came from Richard "RMS" Stallman,
founder of the Free Software Foundation . He commented:
"The choice between free (freedom-respecting) and proprietary
(user-subjugating) software is not a technical choice. It is
an ethical and political issue about people's freedom. To be
neutral on issues that merely concern technology is fine. To
be neutral on ethical and political issues about freedom is
nothing to be proud of."
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