Victims of Military abductions surfaced due to Writ of Amparo
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Friday, September 19, 2008

Software Freedom Day (PROMETHEUS BOUND)

By Ricardo Bahague Jr.
ref: Manila Times

For the past four years, computer users beginners and experts alike, programmers, NGOs and free software advocates have celebrated every third Saturday of September as Software Freedom Day. This year, over 500 teams all over the world is celebrating the event. It is a public education event held by different groups around the world to promote the use of free and open source software.

"Software" is the word for programs and other procedures in your computer that uses your hardware to do the work you require it to do.

Proprietary software is the most common kind of many software products that users are allowed to use upon the payment of license fees. Buying a software product like an operating system gives you a license to use it under certain conditions such as installing it only on a single computer, accepting the prohibition not to modify it and not to redistribute the program to others.

Unlike proprietary software, free/open source software (FOSS) product owners, developers and/or creators give users the right to use it for any purpose and to redistribute, study, modify and improve it. This is done by doing away with traditional copyright conditions and making the source code of the software itself available to the public.

The source code of a software is like the recipe of a dish and the chef would be the software company that produces the software. Using this analogy, the main idea in FOSS is that the recipe is made available to all. Others can modify it to suit their needs and its products can be shared freely, or given away to anyone we like.

Most popular proprietary software already have free and open source equivalents. These equivalents are already on a par with their proprietary counterparts. A whole range of high quality and dependable applications that are free and open source can be downloaded from the Internet. It ranges from operating systems to run in your personal computer (such as GNU/Linux), servers that manage websites and your e-mail (Apache, SendMail), office suites such as OpenOffice, Internet browsers like Firefox, graphics design software (GIMP) and databases.

An immediate benefit of using FOSS is the reduced licensing and upgrade fees. The giant chip maker Intel reportedly saved $200 million for switching their servers from proprietary UNIX software to open software, while reported a $17-million savings when they migrated to Linux. FOSS in lieu of proprietary software result in significant cost savings of anywhere from 15 percent to 35 percent over a span of three years.

A UNDP study has pointed out that using FOSS in the Philippines can develop local capacity in our software industry, reduce our dependence on imports, conserve our foreign exchange, enhance our national security, reduce copyright infringements and enable software to be easily adapted to local languages and practices. Furthermore, reducing the costs of software increases the public's capacity to use and have access to information thus enabling more people to use these in their efforts to achieve overall economic development.

A government policy on using free and open source software is the purpose of House Bill No. 1716 or the Free/Open Source Software Act authored by Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Teddy CasiƱo. It proposes to require the use of free and open source software in the absence of a clear advantage of using proprietary software. It also promotes open standards and open formats in all government agencies and encourages the use and development of FOSS in the private and public sector.

The government is the single biggest consumer of ICT goods and services. It spends billions of pesos to implement systems for public use. Mandating the use of FOSS to government agencies will lower the cost of implementing various ICT programs and projects. Rather than spending on software products that have FOSS equivalents, additional hardware can be acquired instead. The use of free and open source software is the affordable software alternative for a third world country like the Philippines.

You can see free and open software in action during the Software Freedom Day to be held on Saturday September 20 at 9:00 p.m. at the University of Makati. The organizers will make available the latest versions of free operating systems that can be freely copied during the event. Aside from the University of Makati and PUP-Taguig events in Metro Manila, there will also be regional events in Baguio, Angeles, Mindanao State University and in Isabela City. The event is expected to bring in more than 2000 advocates and enthusiasts all over the country in line with this year's call for "One Nation: Unity for Software Freedom." More information can be found at or at

Know a world where software is free and no pirates exist. Discover free and open software.
[A member of AGHAM, Mr. Ricardo Bahague graduated from physics at UP Diliman. He is a FOSS advocate, developer and coordinator of the Computer Professionals Union.]

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