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Linux is Not Cheap and Open Source is Not Free

TALKING about Linux (or more broadly — about Free software) as a cheap alternative to Macintosh and Windows escapes the main point. This point is made more and more apparent as times goes by (and users lose more space). Linux is about freedom, not cost. The cost of an O/S is not as high as the worth of being allowed to control what your PC actually does. Consider DRM, WGA, spying, flexibility, migration, lock-in, bloat, and many other new factors that make alternatives to Linux repellent. Linux helps the user maintains basic rights and be treated decently.

While some people talk about price, it still encourages the misconception that Linux users are cheap or that Linux is good because it’s inexpensive. What if people spoke about the person actually owning his/her PCs, rather than renting a license to borrow some piece of software that takes over the PC, then restricts, punishes, requests money, and phones Mother Ship?

Another distinction needs to be made to separate what people call “open source” and what we know as “Free software”, which includes Linux. Watch the following new video.

What on Earth Have I Become?

Help human rights. Help Earth.

OKAY, the title is just sort of humorous and it’s designed to draw your attention. I once foresaw myself as someone who would work in industry making a decent living. That was when I learned. Later I envisioned myself exploring and researching. That was when I worked on my Ph.D. which I could probably finish when I was 24. But then came the stage when I worked. But I enjoyed it. I was drawn to a newly-found passion of mine. I scratched an itch which was identified when I discovered hostility and propaganda directed at the very same thing that I used and loved — Free software.

Things have changed a lot, but it was not an overnight transformation.

At present, I’m a forever-procrastinating Ph.D. candidate who has been virtually sitting on a ready thesis for over a year but not just in order to stay in campus life, which is convenient and liberating (I’ll be forced to just submit it at the end of this month). I’ve been advocating Free software vigorously for about 2 years and I began helping with Groklaw News Picks a year and a half ago. I consider myself to be one who is intimately familiar with many of Microsoft’s misconducts (recent past, but particularly present) and I recently started to share my findings in more visible places. I find it utterly appalling — knowing what I know — that Microsoft is practically above international laws.

What’s next? Who the heck knows…

All I know is that I’ve become part of a force that brings change. The world will continue to change and I wish to be part it, not a residue or a side effect.

If you don’t stand up for what you believe it, you’ll live according to someone else’s desires. Other people’s personal goals sometimes lead to harm. Our rights are taken away, our home (or planet) is gradually destroyed, and people at the top strive to keep everyone else ignorant enough to not realise this.

I had my childhood and I’ve had what people call a “normal” life. Maybe it’s time to ensure that tomorrow children can have a normal life too because the world is becoming worse and worse as the days go by.

Roy as a baby
Me, when I was happy to know nothing about
the way our world really operates

Do What You Love, Happiness Will Come

Small clock
Time flies when you do something you enjoy

I have been fairly pleased with my last weekend, which is now over. For a a change, I went out to a nice dinner last night and I also managed to relax as the workload is reduced (thank you, summertime). Yesterday, a journalist and author who appears in CNN, NBC and many other top-tier networks got in touch with me. We’ll see where it leads, but all in all, I am less worried about my future than I once used to be.

My worry is not associated with inability to work, but rather it’s about the possibility of no longer doing what I consider play (for a living!). My job at the University pays me over $40 a week for just 5-10 minutes of actual effort. It’s fantastic. How long will this last? We shall see.

For the time being, life treats me fairly well. I live a modest life, my spendings are minimal, but passion transcends and supersedes all else.

The Importance of a Shift Towards Free Software

Open officeTHE idea of free culture is centred around democratic values. It changes a few economical status quos (e.g. compartments, pyramid schemes), so no wonder it faces so much resistance and sheer opposition from various authorities. All in all, it involves millions of people getting exposure and becoming contributers rather than having a few ‘stars’ reaching millions who get glued to a couch and dream of being superstars. The former is a case of decentralisation of influence, if not of wealth as well.

That is why I continue to urge everyone to made a gradual migration to software which shifts control back to its rightful owner. Do it for, if you ask me — which you might do — the Free software movement, but mainly for your own benefit. Only when computer use is restricted to a point of end-user suffocation will people wake up. As it stands, with DRM, even personal information is set to expire and become no longer accessible. All the advancements made by sharing are suppressed, which once again leads to stifling of scientific and cultural progress. And it’s very sad. It is in a company’s interest to keep us naive and obedient to anything.

Apple’s Open Source licences are geared towards transparency, but nothing scientific for the betterment and extension through sharing (giving and taking). I find great hope in Linux, unless BSD matures to become as easy to set up. OpenSolaris remains a package that is controlled by a company, so it is too early to consider it.

Mood and Health — Body and Soul

Childhood photos with family
Bottom-right, from left to right: Me, my father and my sister in our younger days (click for full-sized version but beware: 1.3 MB JPEG)

LIKE most people, my mood is elevated and de-elevated on different days, for a variety of reasons. While not all of them are work- or personal issues-related, most of them are. The more interesting ingredients of mood, however, relate to the ties between physical well-being and one’s mood. Here’s an article that I caught some time ago. Working in reverse, it actually talks about the effect of one’s mood on one’s health, which makes the relationship reciprocal. Cyclic relationships such as this can lead to spirals. I see some negative such spirals affecting friends. Fortunately, I am not a victim, yet.

Open Source and Scientific Analogies

Season of the playful penguins
Season of the playful penguins from Oyonale

Sidling with Open Source software development is sidling with science. To use a parable, people in conferences don’t just show the end products. They often have papers explaining methods, without being restricited by patents, and increasingly some source code is available too. They want to make a difference, not (necessarily just) money.

Linux (and Open Source software) protects its users, which it does not perceive as customer, from technology that only benefits greedy companies. Avoidance of brainwash, abuse and abomination is not only an important factor to so-called technocrats. As more people grasp the value of liberty, accentuated by corporate-centirc products such as Vista, the stampede to vendor-neutral solutions will begin.

Certifications Make All the Difference in the World

MIAS IRC presentation

ONLY a year ago, before ODF became the ISO standard, I had to engage in lengthy and complex arguments over formats. I was doing fine by my own, but the issue of exchange arises in wider public arenas. Not anymore though. The crowning of ODF gives all the protection that I require. Here is an anonymised E-mail that I have just sent.

>Dear Roy
>>
>> Please can you email a sample of your presentation file so
>> that the IT guys here can find the relevant software and
>> load it onto the equipment in the lecture room.
>>
>> Please send it by return

Hi [anonimised],

This file is in OpenDocument Presentation format, which
is the international standard for presentations (ODF). One
common applications that handles it is OpenOffice 2. I
understand that Microsoft intends to catch up with the standards
in Office 2007, essentially by supporting ODF through a plugin.

Many thanks in advance,

Roy

I will be presetning at Oxford University later this week.

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