Archive for April 2004
I have decided to take a break and study mathematics and sharpen my claws so I can be sure that when I attack the exams, I will be tearing the questions apart.
I did not appear for the math exam. Blah!
The electronics exam was great! Yay!
I need to study more.
One word. Sheer power. To make any human lay down anything as an sacrifice.
This same word is transforming the world of software today. Today we are observing a new movement for freedom. Freedom of thought, of ideas, of creativity. Freedom of source. This source is the driving force of computing.
Till a few years back, making software and selling it was a business run by few. Even fewer were the people who actually allowed people to see how a particular software worked. The people were blindfolded into believing that there was no such thing as freedom in software. Whatever the companies made, people had to use. Nobody was allowed to change the software to suit their own needs. At that time, such need was also not felt widely. But in the background (as always) a few people were working toward breaking the habit. The habit of letting the software company own you.
I will surely not deal with the history of free software / open source initiative. It's been done by many experts and has been done well. As always, my bad habit : ask google for details
The open source movement was'nt appreciated by most people until recently. It just di not occur to the people what they were losing by being slaves of proprietory software. Mainly, the freedom to change the software to suit their own needs. Those who discovered the joy of programming and the facts of open source simply could not resist the benefits. Thus this small number of hackers started growing by geometrical proportions…
As usual, the media had to poke it's nose and spoil the party. The propoganda caused many wannabe hackers to get into the same field as the real hackers. Now it must be noted (quickly) that the term 'real hackers' refers to people who love technology and computers and the term 'wannabe hackers' refers to the people who love the destruction through technology and computers.
Why am I writing abou this? What is my role in this?
Right now my role in the movement is nothing more than a person cheering up the leaders to move onward. I may be viewed as a soldier of the lowest rank, who is not too important, but is a part of the army.
I am writing for one reason – to make more people to understand why there is need of real hackers in the movement.
That rant brings us to the next logicalstep – asking “why?”. Why is there need for real hackers in the open source movement?
If you love technology already, you know why. If you are still questioning yourself whether you like computers or not, read on…
As we can clearly see that the wannabe hackers are basically of no practical use to any community. All they can possibly think of is how to break into other's computers and how to disrupt other's lives. Their sole motivation is fun at the cost of others. And a community can never thrive if such people try to be a part of it.
We need programmers, artists, mathematicians, writers… people with talent and dedication. Today, computers are not just number crunchers. They are used everywhere and everywhere means even by people with very less or absolutely no experience in programming.
The big companies can dish out software applications that suit most people because they employ people to do research on various aspects like asthetics, algorithms, documentation etc. These aspects are sometimes sidelined in the open source community. Thus the open source software not only becomes more cryptic, but also more daunting for the novice to even try. There is appreciable work being done today on these aspects, but again, we need more people!
If you are a good writer, you can be a freedom fighter too! Look up on any search engine, many projects are asking for help. If you are good at technical writing, you are most probably already into it. If not, stop asking for money for every word you write, do something that you will really be remembered for.
Mathematicians, you can help too! Good algorithms and nice hacks (you know what I mean) are always welcome. Today's graphic intensive applications require your help.
Artists, Lend a hand at asthetics! Beautify your freedom, make it dazzle! There is nothing like a beautiful logo for a project, or a beautiful new font! Window decorations, backgrounds, button designs and many more facets of computing await yuor touch.
Poets, have you thought about writing the error messages in poetic form? Do it! In your own style!! There's more… you can imagine the possibilities!
Translators. Need I say more?
And I surely hope the programmers know that they are needed just as always. If you are good at programming, support some software. If you are a good innovator, make some software. If you are a master of disaster, test out the software and help it to be bug-free and stable.
It ios also helpful to know that we do not have to sacrifice our lives to get this freedom. Volunteer work is all we need!! Attaining freedom just became a bit more easier, don't let it slip from your hands!
And after writing a few hundred words… let's make the long story short.
“Join the open source movement. Lend a hand. We need you. Thank You!”
*hashu bows to all*
I have observed that many software companies sell special versions of their software to educational institutes and students.
Today's questions that begin my rant are… How many people really use it? Why is the number of people who use it so small?
Addressing question number one, how many people use it. Now if you ask this question in my college, you might get answers or cross-questions like “Since when did these companies start giving out such versions?”, “Funny, I never heard of that!”, “My cousin uses some software under that license.”, or the usual and more general “Huh?”.
Now please do remember, that when I say “my college” it not only applies to the college where I study, but to a whole bunch of colleges all over the world! So never take my words literally, always see if there is some more meaning to them.
Okay, now that the first question is answered, we proceed to asing the second question: why is the number of people who use proper licensed software so small… Now I won't dare to put the answers to the first questions because you might stop reading here!! So let's think of something more cerative, no it's not intelligent, just creative – intelligence is the skill of remembering things. (ref: yesterday's blog, 30 Mar 2004)
So the answers could be anything like: “Because we never heard of them!”, “Nobody checks the license if we use at home.”, “It's okay if you don't use it for profit.” and the regular “I don't know” or the world's favorite answer – “Huh?”.
That's what people answer. But as you might have known by now, I am a curious person, like to get to the depth of things. So what makes people so cool about using pirated software? It's the values, the culture, the government and the law!
Are you thinking “Oh my God! This fellow thinks too much!” ?
Don't worry, I won't bother you too much, it's my habit of clarifying the usually unnoticed links between different concepts and facts of life. [*1]
Now I have to think (“Oh no! Not again!!”) that just why are people motivated to use pirated software… the prime reason is that as said above, 'values' are one major thing lacking in the population. For example, sad to note this point, but the “culture” was actually only limited to the so called uper classes of the Indian society, and the major population today obviously does not come from those families. So here is one conclusion: most population in developing countries is, sadly, uncultured. It's not an absolute conclusion, mind you. The uncultured-ness is subtle on the surface, thanks to the mass media which has taught people how to appear good. (Did someone make a tv serial that actually told people how to think good? yes, but again, people are not ready to learn)
Getting back on the track, after bashing the people, let's now bash the government. The government in a democratic form is just as good as it's people, or sometimes, worse!! When many well known criminals rule the country, you can't expect much law, can you? (Hence I won't talk about the law.)
Oh, and the open source revolution! How could I forget to mention that? The message is coming all wrong! People only hate the big commercial software vendors, they don't wish to move their fat asses to open source platforms. To show their so called support for the open source, they are ready to pirate the commercial software, just to piss off the companies!! (Did the makers of open source even guess this could happen?) It's hapening. Think.
Then again comes my favourite punching bag – my college! my course!! my educationers!!! They make it copulsory to use “Windows 98, Office 2000 and Oracle 8, Borland Turbo C and Visual Basic” for the studies, and just how are the students supposed to get the software for practice at home? The internet in my city for example is dialup only, 4 kbps max. So download is not an option, if we say getting from a vendor, guys, get a grip! There are very few software vendors who actually sell authorized copies of software!! Most of the computers at people's houses also have pirated software installed on them. The people are least bothered. Some even don't know what they are doing! For example, one guy came to me and asked for my Windows 98 CD.. I refused; telling him that it was authorised and I could not give him. So he told me that he was asking for my CD *because* he wanted an authorized version! (now think like the guy to find out what he meant.) [*2]
The educational institutes getting CDs for the students (or even themselves) is like ocurence of heavy rainfall in the Sahara!! These institutes are businesses, they care only for the money, and like I said, run by mostly uncultured people; they do not have the values that can make them feel obligated to deliver what is promised. *sigh* Don't expect anything from your college or any private institution, schools are better I must say, but it's a rule of thumb, if you wish to learn, learn it yourself. But ironically, pirating is actually helped by these same institutions, who lend the CDs of the unauthorized software to the students! Think about it.
Bad bad bad. This story can continue for days! But I would like to conclude with only one message… not to my educationers, not to the people nor the government.. but to the software vendors and companies.. if you want to reduce the piracy, make it difficult to pirate!! Make your software so cheap, that people will prefer to buy rather than pirate! I know a lot of efforts go into making the software since I am myself a programmer, but calculate this:
4 people with licensed software multiplied by price, say 1000 units.
you get 4,000 units of currency.
400 people with licensed software multiplied by price, say 100 units.
you get… 40,000 units of currency.
You can actually reduce price by tenfold and increase profit instead of losing.
I hope when you make such complex software, you can understand this little calculation
And yes, please, please, visit all the major institutes and tell them that you have special educational licenses, give them evaluation copies, make the people understand the value of your work and why they should buy from you instead of pirating. Don't just think “We are the lords of computing! People must bow down to us and buy whatever we wish to sell at whetever price we say.” Since, in developing countries, most things are either cheap or pirated/smuggled.
[*1] firstly, yes I like to add footnotes, at least one in each large articles, and secondly – my habit of linking different things is considered annoying by many. But the advantages have outweighed the disadvantages of this habit every time I tried to measure them… so if you are annoyed, please read the article with even more interest, you might just get addicted to that habit too
[*2] hah! more footnotes!! so what did he mean? people do not read the EULA *EVER*!! Majority does not know that installling te software on more than one computer (without the proper license) makes the software unauthorized even if it is installed/copied from the same CD.
[*3] think! think! yes, this is a recursive footnote. think!
P.S. I Use FreeBSD, an Open Source and (obviously) free Operating System instead of my old Windows 98. I don't like the idea of NOT knowing what-goes-where in the computer… more on that tomorrow!!