V. Sasi Kumar <vsasi(a)cessind.org>
Comments on "No free lunches for me"
by Charles Assissi
Fri, 01 Sep 2006 20:49:27 +0530
I was appalled to read the article by Charles Assissi entitled "No free
lunches for me" in your newspaper dated August 31, 2006. Although he is
perfectly within his rights to express his views, and that is what he
has done, when it is published in an influential publication like yours,
he should have been more careful in formulating and expressing his
opinion, since a lot of people are going to take this seriously. My
objections are as follows:
1. He effectively says that nice things should not be done because those
who do them are bound to come last. This is shocking, to say the least.
In today's world torn by strife and infected by terrorism, I would have
thought that what we need is more nice things and nice people. I guess
coming first is more important for Mr. Assissi than peace, kindness,
empathy and other nice things.
2. He says, "my guess is free software will always remain on the fringes
of the mainstream." If he had just bothered to look at some statistics,
he would have changed his 'guess'. Just a few examples: The Free
Software operating system GNU/Linux is the second most popular on
desktops, after Microsoft Windows. Free software applications like
Apache are by far the most popular on web servers. Apache, incidentally,
has a share of around 65%. A number of companies, including large
multinationals, are switching to Free Software for their network
applications and even desktops. The city of Munich has shifted all their
13,000 or so computers to Free Software with help from IBM.
3. He says that the spread of Free Software would deny jobs to
programmers. He would have found, if he had done some homework, that a
vast majority of programmers are involved in developing or customising
software for specific needs for specific clients. Interestingly, many of
them do use Free Software. The fraction of programmers involved in
developing the kind of software people use on their desktops is very
small. And even in the Free Software world, there are companies like Red
Hat, Mandriva, Novell, IBM, HP, and Sun Microsystems, who employ
programmers to develop Free Software.
4. He compares his profession with software development. Though the
final products (article and source code) are comparable, the work is not
at all. Once he publishes an article (like the one under mention here),
that is the end of it. He, or anyone else, is never going to improve it
or do anything else with it. No one is going to use if for any purpose.
Once it is read, and people like us write our responses, its purpose is
over. Software, obviously, is nothing like that at all. If Mr. Assissi
had spent a few minutes thinking about this issue, he would have
realised this fact.
Gandhiji once said, "They first ignore us, then they laugh at us, then
they fight us, then we win." People like Mr. Assissi are still at the
second stage -- laughing at Free Software. Proprietary software
companies like Microsoft have started fighting Free Software with
whatever means they have. History shows that they have little chance of
V. Sasi Kumar
Atmospheric Sciences Division
Centre for Earth Science Studies
PB No. 7250, Thuruvikkal PO
Thiruvananthapuram 695031, India
V. Sasi Kumar <sasi.fsf(a)gmail.com>
Free Software Foundation of India
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