[Fsf-friends] Light on Free Software
Sat Nov 15 18:03:07 IST 2003
I read the article titled "Groping in the dark ... ", by Frederick
Noronha, in LINUX For You, November 2003, and thought some light should
be thrown. Sorry, there are no links to the article on the world wide web.
>The we-don't-need-to-promote-FLOSS attitude can lull everyone into a
>of over-confidence. People who could have used this technology
>don't get a chance to. ... the FLOSS fold has a special responsibility.
Free software was born out of the need and necessity to break free from
the tyranny and obstacles of proprietary software. Right from its
inception, the expression Free Software has meant a negation of all that
constituted proprietary software. Software can be intelligibly
classified only as free or proprietary, where each class clearly and
fully negates the other.
The expression FLOSS was used in a survey and study financed under the
European Commission's IST programme, which did a case study of
Free/Libre Open Source Software, and the work done is available at
http://www.infonomics.nl/FLOSS . The FLOSS study was started on June 1,
2001 and terminated on October 31, 2002. The concept of sharing which
is innate and elementary in the free software movement, was researched
by elaborate questionnaires! The FLOSS study report, while referring to
PostgreSQL, says "it is mainly deployed in private use and projects not
involving mission-critical business operations", which is plainly wrong.
Several goverments and entities are developing live projects using
PostgreSQL, that has a rich set of functions not available in even
commercial database servers. The "FLOSS survey and study" is a gloss,
when all relevant material is already available at www.gnu.org and
www.opensource.org. Is FLOSS a technology? The expression FLOSS was
used in the emperical study to refer to Free/Libre Open Source Software
generally, and cannot be called a "technology". Even if the FLOSS study
and report are useful to the European Commission, and to others, it
would be no reason to use the expression FLOSS to refer to Free Software.
If a new group props up from the community, calling Free Software as
Public Software, reasoning that "public" is the best word to convey the
intent of GPL, then would there be another study group, that surveys
Free/Libre Open Public Source Software - FLOPSS? Would we then seek to
replace FLOSS with FLOPSS? This would be endess and meaningless.
We need to gracefully accept the historical background that led to the
free software movement, and avoid inventing new expressions to maintain
clarity and stay focused on the deeper goals and intents of Free
Software. Some people freely dip into the Free Software Directory to
meet needs, but openly refuse to give credit, or use the expression free
software, which is only unfair.
>The good thing about the meet is that it's [a symposium in Singapore]
>trying to network all the FLOSS initiatives in this part of the globe
>together a more reliable picture of what's hapenning
At present, we can check into globally accessible servers, and download,
use, modify, improve, and distribute free software. If spreading the
use of free software is itself seen as a project, it would be ideal to
adopt the same methods adopted to develop free software, by commencing a
project at savannah or sourceforge, so that there can be global access
and robust practices evolve. It may be a mere shell script that will
download relevant software, and install the same in the user's server
and this could keep count and create feedback channels. There are no
sound reasons for isolating software use from software development, as
both are essentially two sides of the same coin. If Asian projects on
i18n, l10n, etc are operated from a few well known CVS foundries, then
even persons with access to the internet, living in even remote
villages, who clearly understand what is happening can make
contributions that are globally relevant. Free software movement has
incidentally promoted the principle of equality like never before.
>Mastering technology is good but it's more important to be
large-hearted when it comes to sharing it
I hope that this is a reference to our friends who work for proprietary
software. Quite obviously, free software is the ultimate in sharing, and
it would be crude to accuse people who have contributed towards free
software of not being large-hearted.
>We could well convert this into a small self-serving club that doesn't
A friend sent me a copy of Tarka Samgraha by Anambhatta, with its
expository gloss on ancient Indian epistemology usually called Nyaya
[Realism] + Vaisesika [Atomistic Pluralism]. The Indian works on logic
were born, not through any gentle flaming, but through an intense
burning desire to get to truth. Modern India's motto is a phrase from
the Mundaka Upanishad: Sathyameva Jayethe, translated as "Truth
Triumphs". The Upanishads are seen as a clear strarting point for
studies on logic, and further works on the methods of arriving at the
truth by reasoning developed and evolved gradually. The Nyaya Sutras
were written by Gautama. The Vaisesika Sutras were by Kanada.
Vatsyayana was the first author who explained the entire scheme of
Indian epistemology, however, globally better known today for his Kama
Sutra. The Tarka Samgraha is a dipika or commentary on the original
older works. The Tarka translation in hand was rendered by Swami
Virupakshananda of the Ramakrishna Math, Chennai. The opening quotation
is: "Logic and grammar are indispensable aids for every branch of
Knowledge". AI applications, even today, do not give grammar the
importance it deserves.
Long before Stephens drafted the Evidence Act in 1872, we had several
works, dealing scientifically and comprehensively with primary evidence,
verbal testimony, inference, deduction and these works were actually
used in every day life.
Nachiketa <-at the doorstep of-> Death, Gautama, Kanada, Vatsyayana,
Anambhatta are a few names I have listed here, as associated with Indian
epistemology. Now, could we call them as "self-serving" individuals who
affixed their names to their works? Their works stand on their own, and
we will carry forward the memory of the author along with the work, only
if we accept their value. I am convinced they are an invaluable source,
atleast, to improve my own Calpp: aided legal procedures and proceedings
project. Calpp is the mission of my life, and I make no bones about it.
The Calpp project could be seen as self-serving its author Ramanraj,
but it could also be seen as serving real human needs. We will gain and
grow a lot when Indian epistemology is available as part of free software.
Section VII, of the Tarka Samgraha dealing with valid verbal testimony
says: "Significative potency is the desire that a certain concept be
understood from a certain word."
Viewed from this angle, RMS, the founder of the free software movement
desired the world to break free from proprietary licences and initiated
the free software movement. The whole philosophy and concepts behind
the movement stand elegantly loaded on the expression "free software".
I hope that all of us can see the significance of the free software
movement, and voluntarily use the expression "free software" instead of
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