deferred live

Today is only yesterday's tomorrow.                                                                   

Independence Day


This has been a nice Independence Day so far. Changed my muse’s name from noname.c. Appended the line “the condition of failure is known as the boundary condition” by an uttering of Lord Byron.

Today is only yesterday’s tomorrow.

August 15th, 2008 at 6:01 am

Posted in i,sound bytes

wget


The purpose of this post is to toast to wget. Also to test footnote. Should work.

The magic of wget

The magic of wget

August 12th, 2008 at 6:30 am

Posted in it

Burn the book


Tuesday, 5th August 2008. Time: After midnight.
Place: A Bengali TV channel, name not worth remembering.
Scene: A woman burning pages of a school book. And a representative of the social welfare committee was unable to understand why the woman was burning the pages, and she pledged that she will look into the matter. There was also the suggestion of penalties for book burning.

Fat chance that the social welfare lady will ever read this post. If she does, here is the reason why book pages turn to ash: The kerosine costs 32 INR per liter. The average income in a Bengal village is 30-40 INR (less than $1) per day. I got to know this from the website that this lady representative’s government published.

August 5th, 2008 at 4:07 am

Posted in them

me@bhagsu and another awesome tool


Another incredible tool at Flash Zoomer



This is cool, so am I (I think), :-)

July 22nd, 2008 at 3:50 pm

Posted in it

A letter that gave me goose bumps


It was just about like any other post midnight. Purple hazed and smokey. Till I came across this article on web.archive.org This is the letter written by Dr Edgar David Villanueva (congressman, Republic of Peru) to the general manager of Microsoft, Peru. It was in the year 2002 and Peru was trying to introduce a bill (1609) on “Free Software in Public Administration” [English translation of the Free Software bill]

To: Señor JUAN ALBERTO GONZÁLEZ

Traducción cortesia de :Graham Seaman
Lima, 8th of April, 2002.
To: Señor
JUAN ALBERTO GONZÁLEZ
General Manager of Microsoft, Perú

Dear Sir.
First of all, I thank you for your letter of March 25 2002 in which you state the official position
of Microsoft relative to Bill Number 1609, Free Software in Public Administration, which is indubitably inspired by the desire for Peru to find a suitable place in the global technological context. In the same spirit, and convinced that we will find the best solutions through an exchange of clear and open ideas, I will take this opportunity to reply to the commentaries included in your letter.

Thank you, but no thank you

While acknowledging that opinions such as yours constitute a significant contribution, it would have been even more worthwhile for me if, rather than formulating objections of a general nature (which we will analyse in detail later) you had gathered solid arguments for the advantages that proprietary software could bring to the Peruvian State, and to its citizens in general, since this would have allowed a more enlightening exchange in respect of each of our positions.

Discriminatory and non competitive practices

To continue; you note that:” 2. The bill, by making the use of open source software compulsory, would establish discriminatory and non competitive practices in the contracting and purchasing by public bodies…”

On the other hand, the central aspect of competivity is the chance to provide better choices to the consumer. Now, it is impossible to ignore the fact that marketing does not play a neutral role when the product is offered on the market (since accepting the opposite would lead one to suppose that firms’ expenses in marketing lack any sense), and that therefore a significant expense under this heading can influence the decisions of the purchaser. This influence of marketing is in large measure reduced by the bill that we are backing, since the choice within the framework proposed is based on the *technical merits* of the product and not on the effort put into commercialization by the producer; in this sense, competitvity is increased, since the smallest software producer can compete on equal terms with the most powerful corporations.

It is necessary to stress that there is no position more anti-competitive than that of the big software producers, which frequently abuse their dominant position, since in innumerable cases they propose as a solution to problems raised by users: “update your software to the new version” (at the user’s expense, naturally); furthermore, it is common to find arbitrary cessation of technical help for products, which, in the provider’s judgement alone, are “old”; and so, to receive any kind of technical assistance, the user finds himself forced to migrate to new versions (with non-trivial costs, especially as changes in hardware platform are often involved). And as the whole infrastructure is based on proprietary data formats, the user stays “trapped” in the need to continue using products from the same supplier, or to make the huge effort to change to another environment (probably also proprietary).

In respect of the guarantee

As you know perfectly well, or could find out by reading the “End User License Agreement” of the products you license, in the great majority of cases the guarantees are limited to replacement of the storage medium in case of defects, but in no case is compensation given for direct or indirect damages, loss of profits, etc… If as a result of a security bug in one of your products, not fixed in time by yourselves, an attacker managed to compromise crucial State systems, what guarantees, reparations and compensation would your company make in accordance with your licencingconditions? The guarantees of proprietary software, inasmuch as programs are delivered “AS IS”, that is, in the state in which they are, with no additional responsibility of the provider in respect of function, in no way differ from those normal with free software.

On Intellectual Property

Questions of intellectual property fall outside the scope of this bill, since they are covered by specific other laws. The model of free software in no way implies ignorance of these laws, and in fact the great majority of free software is covered by copyright. In reality, the inclusion of this question in your observations shows your confusion in respect of the legal framework in which free software is developed. The inclusion of the intellectual property of others in works claimed as one’s own is not a practice that has been noted in the free software community; whereas, unfortunately, it has been in the area of proprietary software. As an example, the condemnation by the Commercial Court of Nanterre, France, on 27th September 2001 of Microsoft Corp. to a penalty of 3 million francs in damages and interest, for violation of intellectual property (piracy, to use the unfortunate term that your firm commonly uses in its publicity).

Mistaken conclusions regarding State savings?

You go on to say that: “The bill uses the concept of open source software incorrectly, since it does not necessarily imply that the software is free or of zero cost, and so arrives at mistaken conclusions regarding State savings, with no cost-benefit analysis to validate its position.”

This observation is wrong; in principle, freedom and lack of cost are orthogonal concepts: there is software which is proprietary and charged for (for example, MS Office), software which is proprietary and free of charge (MS Internet Explorer), software which is free and charged for (RedHat, SuSE etc Gnu/Linux distributions), software which is free and not charged for (Apache, OpenOffice, Mozilla), and even software which can be licensed in a range of combination (MySQL).

Cost of migration, compatibility, and interoperability

You continue: “8. In addition, the alternative adopted by the bill (i) is clearly more expensive, due to the high costs of software migration, and (ii) puts at risk compatibility and interoperability of the IT platforms within the State, and between the State and the private sector, given the hundreds of versions of open source software on the market.”

Let us analyze your statement in two parts. Your first argument, that migration implies high costs, is in reality an argument in favour of the Bill. Because the more time goes by, the more difficult migration to another technology will become; and at the same time, the security risks associated with proprietary software will continue to increase. In this way, the use of proprietary systems and formats will make the State ever more dependent on specific suppliers. Once a policy of using free software has been established (which certainly, does imply some cost) then on the contrary migration from one system to another becomes very simple, since all data is stored in open formats. On the other hand, migration to an open software context implies no more costs than migration between two different proprietary software contexts, which invalidates your argument completely.

The second argument refers to “problems in interoperability of the IT platforms within the State, and between the State and the private sector” This statement implies a certain lack of knowledge of the way in which free software is built, which does not maximize the dependence of the user on a particular platform, as normally happens in the realm of proprietary software. Even when there are multiple free software distributions, and numerous programs which can be used for the same function, interoperability is guaranteed as much by the use of standard formats, as required by the bill, as by the possibility of creating interoperable software given the availability of the source code.

Free software is anti money?

You go on to say that: “11. Open source software, since it can be distributed without charge, does not allow the generation of income for its developers through exports. In this way, the multiplier effect of the sale of software to other countries is weakened, and so in turn is the growth of the industry, while Government rules ought on the contrary to stimulate local industry.”

This statement shows once again complete ignorance of the mechanisms of and market for free
software. It tries to claim that the market of sale of non- exclusive rights for use (sale of licenses) is the only possible one for the software industry, when you yourself pointed out several paragraphs above that it is not even the most important one. The incentives that the bill offers for the growth of a supply of better qualified professionals, together with the increase in experience that working on a large scale with free software within the State will bring for Peruvian technicians, will place them in a highly competitive position to offer their services abroad.

Complete collapse of this initiative in a country like Mexico

In fact Mexico has gone into reverse with the Red Escolar (Schools Network) project. This is due precisely to the fact that the driving forces behind the Mexican project used license costs as their main argument, instead of the other reasons specified in our project, which are far more essential. Because of this conceptual mistake, and as a result of the lack of effective support from the SEP (Secretary of State for Public Education), the assumption was made that to implant free software in schools it would be enough to drop their software budget and send them a CD ROM with Gnu/Linux instead. Of course this failed, and it couldn’t have been otherwise, just as school laboratories fail when they use proprietary software and have no budget for implementation and maintenance. That’s exactly why our bill is not limited to making the use of free software mandatory, but recognizes the need to create a viable migration plan, in which the State undertakes the technical transition in an orderly way in order to then enjoy the advantages of free software.

Rhetoric, the Microsoft way

You end with a rhetorical question: “13. If open source software satisfies all the requirements of
State bodies, why do you need a law to adopt it? Shouldn’t it be the market which decides freely which products give most benefits or value?”

We agree that in the private sector of the economy, it must be the market that decides which
products to use, and no state interference is permissible there. However, in the case of the public sector, the reasoning is not the same: as we have already established, the state archives, handles, and transmits information which does not belong to it, but which is entrusted to it by citizens, who have no alternative under the rule of law. As a counterpart to this legal requirement, the State must take extreme measures to safeguard the integrity, confidentiality, and accessibility of this information. The use of proprietary software raises serious doubts as to whehter these requirements can be fulfilled, lacks conclusive evidence in this respect, and so is not suitable for use in the public sector.

The need for a law is based, firstly, on the realization of the fundamental principles listed above in the specific area of software; secondly, on the fact that the State is not an ideal homogeneous entity, but made up of multiple bodies with varying degrees of autonomy in decision making. Given that it is inappropriate to use proprietary software, the fact of establishing these rules in law will prevent the personal discretion of any state employee from putting at risk the information which belongs to citizens. And above all, because it constitutes an up-to-date reaffirmation in relation to the means of management and communication of information used today, it is based on the republican principle of openness to the public.

Wish you the greatest respect

In conformance with this universally accepted principle, the citizen has the right to know all
information held by the State and not covered by well- founded declarations of secrecy based on law. Now, software deals with information and is itself information. Information in a special form, capable of being interpreted by a machine in order to execute actions, but crucial information all the same because the citizen has a legitimate right to know, for example, how his vote is computed or his taxes calculated. And for that he must have free access to the source code and be able to prove to his satisfaction the programs used for electoral computations or calculation of his taxes.

I wish you the greatest respect, and would like to repeat that my office will always be open for you to expound your point of view to whatever level of detail you consider suitable.

Cordially,

DR. EDGAR DAVID VILLANUEVA NUÑEZ
Congressman of the Republica of Perú.


………
Sounds cliche, but I so wish we had someone like Dr. Nunez in India.


Download pdf version

July 10th, 2008 at 5:00 am

Posted in fsf,it

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