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Letter from the President
Join the Linux Revolution
by Dr. Francisco Nemenzo
The big multinational software companies have local agents to “smoke out” users of pirated and unlicensed computer programs. Their targets are schools, companies and government offices. Those they catch are charged and heavily fined for violation of intellectual property rights. One private university is reportedly paying Microsoft millions in an amicable settlement.
It would be extremely embarrassing for any academic or administrative unit of UP to be caught because we are now taking steps to protect the technologies developed in our research laboratories. This is why the Board of Regents recently adopted the “Acceptable Use Policy for IT Resources of the UP System.”
We have licenses for MS Office 97 and 98. But Microsoft keeps upgrading this program to line the bulging pockets of Bill Gates. We need approximately P12 million to license the new MS Office 2000 in the entire UP System. In addition, we have to pay P8 thousand per computer for the latest Windows operating system. This enormous amount might as well be used to buy more computers.
I have therefore reiterated my appeal to install the Linux operating system and use OpenOffice or StarOffice for word processing, making powerpoint presentations, spreadsheets, data bases, etc., sending emails, and accessing the Internet. SUN Microsystems (a tenant in the UP-Ayala technology incubator) has donated hundreds of CDs for StarOffice with permission to reproduce them as many times as we wish. Walang bayad ito! Our Computer Center is also distributing OpenOffice and other Linux-based programs for free.
StarOffice and OpenOffice have all the features of Microsoft Office. Having tried both, I assure you that they work just as well. It only requires a little effort to shift from the familiar programs. If you learned computing earlier with WordStar, it is like going back to the good old days. StarOffice and OpenOffice are less user-friendly, but you can modify them to suit your peculiar work style. By contrast, a user-friendly program like Microsoft forces you to adapt to the manufacturer’s style, unless you have the patience to tinker with the incomprehensible codes in the “registry.” Of course, you can choose from an array of options, but what you want many not be among those options.
I started writing with WordStar and later graduated to Amipro, both DOS-based word processors. It took sometime before I moved on to MS Word because Windows 95 and later versions do not allow me to use the style I prefer. It was with enormous misgivings that I eventually yielded to Bill Gates when all new programs adopted Windows. Linux was invented and developed by rebels to combat the big corporations who have turned computer-users into captives and making billions in the process. This operating system is so designed that no one can lock it up and it is less vulnerable to viruses. All Linux-based programs are available for free. And Linux-users propagate the gospel of software liberation with the zeal of political activists.
I just finished reading an extremely interesting history of Linux by Glyn Moody entitled Rebel Code: Inside Linux and the Open Source Revolution (Cambridge, Mass.: Perseus Publishing, 2001). The core program was written in 1991 by Linus Torvalds, a master hacker who was then a sophomore student in computer science in Helsinki, Finland. He placed the source code in the Internet. Since then thousands of devoted programmers have contributed to make it the powerful operating system it is today. And several thousands more have written useful programs based on Linux.
What motivated them is not greed, the dream of becoming multimillionaires overnight but the desire to subvert the concept of proprietary programs. They believe that computer power should be accessible to all, that one’s invention should be shared, and others may contribute to its improvement.
The students and faculty of our departments of computer science and electrical electronics engineering have been programming with Linux. CSSP has also shifted to Linux.
Let us all join the Linux revolutionary movement. Good-bye, Bill Gates.
Letter from the President
Ibagsak ang Digital Imperialism
ni Dr. Francisco Nemenzo
I-Filipino natin ito para di maintindihan ni Bill Gates.
Ayon sa Kule, maraming ayaw lumipat sa Linux kahit ipaliwanag nating pinapabayad tayo ng PhP 8,000 bawat computer para sa subscription sa Windows. Bakit daw pahirapan sila? Sanay na sila sa Windows programs at sayang ang kanilang mahalagang oras kung mag-aaral pa ng bagong programa. May katamaran din talagang matuto ng bago. Bukod dito, katwiran nila na tungkulin daw ng sabwatang US-Arroyo na isubsidize ang edukasyon.
Kung gusto talaga ng isang departamento na gumamit ng Microsoft Office, hindi namin sila pinipilit. Pero sila ang bahalang mag-install ng Windows OS sa kanilang computer. Di nila mapapakinabangan ang network dahil unti-unti na itong ililipat sa Linux. At kung mahuli sila ng mga tauhan ni Bill Gates, huwag silang humingi ng pambayad sa multa.
Ang isyu ay hindi lang economic (pagtitipid), kundi political din (paglaya sa digital imperialism). Linux is the antidote to monopolistic control. It is truly liberative and empowering. Liberative because it is so designed that it cannot be locked in by a giant company that wants to carve out a captive market. Empowering because, being open source, it allows users to modify and improve on any program.
Of course, the economic issue is important. Libre kasi ito. Walang hahabol sa atin dahil sa paglabag ng Intellectual Property Rights ng WTO. Years ago, a column in the Philippine Daily Globe and, later, in the Manila Times, it defended software piracy as “the revenge of the Third World.” Now that is not necessary because Linux has opened up an alternative for proprietary software.
Nangatuwiran si Bill Gates noon na kailangang bayaran ang software dahil wala nang magsisikap na pahusayin pa ito kung aalisin ang profit motive. Linux is the answer to this capitalist argument. Marami nang magagaling at napakagandang software ang nasulat para sa Linux, at ang mga ito ay libre din. This has created a market that Bill Gates cannot corner.
Dahil open source ang Linux at lahat ng mga programang nakasalalay dito, madali natin at malaya tayong i-reconfigure ito. Pwede nating iayon ito sa ating partikular na pangangailangan. At pwede pa nating dagdagan ng mga bagong feature. Ganito ang batayan sa kultura ng Linux community: Lahat ay magtulungan para paghusayin pa lalo ang mga programa.
Hindi ito maaring gawin sa mga programa ng Microsoft. Karamihan sa atin ay nasasanay lamang na gumamit sa kanilang mga default function. Oo nga, maari itong i-reconfigure pero limitado ang mga opsyon na inaalok.
Totoo na mas kumplikado ang Linux-based programs. Kung talagang matatalino ang mga taga UP, napakadaling matutunan ng Linux. Para sa amin na dumaan muna sa WordStar, naranasan namin ang proseso ng paglipat sa Microsoft Word. Mas mahirap ang adjustment na iyon. Pero ang StarOffice, OpenOffice, Linux Bayanihan, etc. ay tulad din ng Microsoft Office na menu-driven at user-friendly.
Linux Bayanihan is a package of Linux-based programs developed by ASTI (Advanced Science and Technology Institute) – a unit of DOST based in Diliman campus, along C. P. Garcia Avenue. To promote Linux, it tries to overcome the valid criticism that Linux is difficult to install. With Bayanihan, it takes only three keystrokes to install Linux. And the package includes alternatives to MS Word, Powerpoint and Excel.
ASTI is giving UP several copies of Bayanihan, with permission to replicate it for as many computers as they want. “Permission” is an understatement: ASTI encourages them to propagate it. Ang layunin ay wasakin ang kontrol ng Microsoft at iba pang ganid na software companies.
Nagbabalak sana si Dr. Jay Sabido (propesor ng UP at kasalukuyang director ng ASTI) na magsponsor ng “Linux versus Windows” debate. Pero nahihirapan siyang maghanap ng tagapagsalita para sa Windows. Nasaan na ang mga tumututol sa Linux? Hinahamon namin kayong ipagtanggol si Bill Gates!