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[ossig] BBC Documentary Code Breakers - Views

BBC Documentary Code Breakers - Views
Building a case for ICT Software Freedom

By: Fouad Riaz Bajwa, FOSS Advocate

It has only been a few minutes since the second and last episode of the BBC
produced documentary titled "Code Breakers" was aired on BBC World. The
documentary attempts to create a case for the adoption and usage of Free and
Open Source Software around the world in developing countries whereas
projects an image of the developed world to be almost unaware of what Linux
or FOSS is whereas the case is very different from all this. Moreover, the
documentary gives more coverage to the point of view of Microsoft
continuously showing some Mr. Murray of Microsoft Europe as if he was an
authority on Open ICT Ecosystems and the Free and Open Source Software
Movement in its entirety. What happened in the first episode was highlighted
well contributed by Dr. Molly of the Malaysian FOSS medical system community
earlier on the world FOSS community lists and what has been aired in the
second part will soon be heard over the global FOSS community lists as well.

Beware, RMS & Bruce are Aliens? The X-Files of the FOSS World Revealed!:
During the first episode of the documentary, the impact that it made was
that people from the developed world were almost unaware of FOSS, and that
they only knew about Microsoft Windows or Microsoft Office and someone
accidentally did know about something called uh, FOSS? Nice move, that's why
BBC was constantly showing the founder of the Free Software Foundation,
Richard Stallman (American), explaining the four freedoms of the Free
Software movement and the leader of the Open Source Movement, Bruce Perens
(English) emphasizing on the benefits of developing and adopting "Open
Source" software. From the perspective that has been attempted to be
developed, it seems as if these are the only two people from the developed
world to have presented the freedoms and the pumping adrenaline in to the
FOSS movement. I hope BBC doesn't believe that the leaders of the Free
Software and Open Software movements might be from the lost islands of the
developing world or even outer space? That means I am from Mars or was it

WSIS-Oh people just gathered around to have drinks and talk about &*(#$&^:
After hearing what United Nations was doing and what the World Summit on the
Information Society WSIS was discussing and trying to achieve, it seemed as
if the BBC documentary was a biased audit report of the WSIS 2005 and there
were a couple of people standing talking around about the future of the
Information Society. Sorry to say, even though BBC was there, it somehow
failed to see some 19,000 important and decision making people from over a
hundred nations worldwide at the summit since they were too busy
interviewing people there, drinking and talking about &*(#$&^. 

In reality, WSIS was a global effort to create intervention and dialogue on
the future of the Information Society trying to evolve solutions towards
providing nations the Freedoms to create access, develop and share
Information and Knowledge for sustainable human socio and economic benefit
by adopting ICTs. The Tunis Agenda clearly states and supports the Free and
Open Source Software Movement though it was underrepresented during the
WSIS. There is wide acceptance that ICTs are enabled through FOSS in the age
of the Internet and globalized telecommunications. Thanks to BBC, WSIS was
just about Mr. Murray from Microsoft, the $100 dollar laptop and some
developing world technology called FOSS being implemented in far off African

Microsoft budging its nose into everything called FOSS or Open Source?:
Really, what was BBC trying to portray to its viewers? Was BBC trying to
develop a point of view based upon influences from a MNC giant of the
proprietary software world Microsoft? What BBC does not know is that it has
brought out to the world the hidden truth that the FOSS Movement is causing
disruption in the previously perceived norms and fud marketing practices of
the proprietary software world. Why need such a documentary in the first

In reality, the FOSS Movement itself is well connected worldwide, the FOSS
leaders are continuously interconnected through lists and various global
activities and what has been already achieved is a strong example of the
commitment of the members of the global FOSS movement. FOSS is really
causing a surge throughout the globe. FOSS didn't receive the front cover
story or paid advertising to revolutionize as it exists today. Some may be
able to recall that Microsoft has been finding its way to interfering in the
FOSS movement. They penetrated in to the FOSSFA-IDLELO2, Feb 2006 in
Nairobi, Kenya conference to chant their (commercial interests oriented)
"Shared Source" concept that doesn't even come near the concepts or the
spirit of the global FOSS movement. Wait till you see the FOSS movement
confrontation with Microsoft from the event on tape through another producer
to be released by next year. 

Does Microsoft even understand what the FOSS Movement really is?:
From the looks of the documentary and previous related activities, Microsoft
may be perceiving that the FOSS movement is just about code sharing, so they
will come in and give the idea of sharing and make friends with these pony
tailed geeks in sandals (remember the issues from Massachusetts and ODF)?
Uh, right. Sorry to say, Microsoft seems to be still as ignorant as it has
always been to towards the FOSS movement. Before describing more of the BBC
documentary episode two, let me guide you through the spirit of the FOSS
movement in order to identify the clear dissimilarities between Microsoft's
misperception of sharing and the FOSS concept of sharing for humanitarian

The spirit of the FOSS Movement:
I will not be explaining the four freedoms of the Free Software Foundation
and the principles of the Open Source Initiative, what I will be explaining
are the underlying human motivational principles of developing social or
community oriented software for human benefit at large.  First of all,
whether we are software designers and developers, humanitarian aid workers,
United Nation's folks (the pro-FOSS group and not the anti-FOSS group),
members of development organizations and global forums, academia,
researchers, groups or individual enthusiasts, we all want to make a
positive difference to the people in the world around us. They can belong
anywhere from the developed or from the developing world irrespective of
age, color, race, religion, ethnicity or economic status. 

We believe that the social or community software we generate as a result of
our thoughts and volunteer actions influences the people around us. Our
motivation to develop such software comes from the inner urge on how we can
add to the spirit of life rather than subtract from it. Since we have the
knowledge and resources to do so, and that leaders of the movement have made
such resources available globally, we can utilize this power to change the
world around us through software built under the umbrella of Open Standards
and FOSS. We are all well aware of this ability and thus we will never
underestimate or neglect this power of software development sharing that we
have acquired through the contributions and struggle of many heroes of the
FOSS movement. We will always nurture it and help others benefit from the
true spirit of the FOSS movement.

It's our choice and not Microsoft's regarding what software we should use!:
Thus, the above ideology helps us understand that Free and Open Source
Software is a result of Freedom. If we let others decide what software we
should use, we are not seizing our own Freedoms like our own human rights.
We have a choice for adopting software for every situation in our life
without restrictions and that choice should be supported with the fact that
whenever we want and whenever we feel it necessary to make changes or
modifications, we should have access to its source code. We should be free
to choose software just like our actions and attitudes. 

EULA-End User Licensing Agreement or EULAS-Enabling Users Legal Access to
Would you consider, BBC or even Microsoft will ever be able to understand
this ideology of Freedom? Will Microsoft products ever carry an open license
to securing Freedom? Will the Microsoft EULA (End User Licensing Agreement)
be altered so as to freely allow anyone to carry the concept of code
sharing, modification, redistribution of derivate works, will I be able to
go to the Microsoft website tomorrow morning and download the source code of
Microsoft Office, add to that source the ODF (Open Document Format)
compatibility and upload it to the Microsoft website to make it available to
the rest of the world to download it freely on their Linux, Unix, Solaris
operating systems, I believe NO!

An attempt by Microsoft to tell the world that they co-exist with the FOSS
From what the both episodes of the document have portrayed, it can be
believed that Microsoft and BBC have attempted to show the world that there
is a co-existence of two software development models. One is the FOSS
Movement and the other is the Proprietary Commercial Model that has now come
into parallel existence. It further shows that the FOSS movement has given
Microsoft competition, sadly, FOSS is not giving competition to anyone, in
the Business Sense, might be, but we tend to accept FOSS as our basic right
and our basic freedom to access and create information and knowledge. 

Second Episode, awww, ok poor little IBM and HP, lets give you the chance to
at least say something about OSS  
In the last episode of the documentary, BBC was very kind enough to at least
allow the other Aliens like IBM and HP talk about what they were doing with
OSS and they gave their point of views and then pop in Microsoft again every
now and then to find some way to negate what these giants were talking
about. These giants did not adopt OSS or FOSS just because it was there,
they adopted it because they were forward thinkers and saw that the future
was towards ICT Software Freedom and choice to choose openness or closed
software. Sadly, again everyone was shouting out loud, FREEDOM & CHOICE, but
BBC and Microsoft were unable to hear that or understand it, I believe only
Aliens like us can understand these words. 

A couple of Mobile Indian Buses and Sahana is FOSS:
Since we don't have money, and we are poor, we use FOSS? Since the Sahana
People didn't have money, they used FOSS, since kids in India are poor and
barefooted, they are taught to use FOSS. Once again, Microsoft pops in, we
will do it together? Sigh, again, why is only the developing world using
FOSS, to reduce the digital divide? These questions and comments might be a
bit rude or absurd, the intent is to help realize the fact that NO! That is
not why these organizations and countries used FOSS. They had better and
more access to FOSS resources than proprietary resources, more and more
people were willing to contribute and work in a situation that could not
have been facilitated by proprietary licensing and regulatory schemes. These
are people taking action finding solutions to their own problems at the
right place and time. They don't have to wait for someone from the
proprietary software world to tell them what is good or bad for their
situations. FOSS is a participatory approach to solving the problems through
software for their communities and answering to disaster relief calls on
time and providing affordable education.

I know my ICT Software Freedoms, do you?:
What am I trying to prove in all this discussion is just one small thing
that has a meaning of a global nature, FREEDOM to access information and
knowledge, FREEDOM to share that information and knowledge for the common
good and benefit of all humanity, FREEDOM to improve and add to that
information and knowledge, FREEDOM to create further information and
knowledge for mutual benefit through derivative works acknowledging the
contributions of others. The ability to understand and practice my choices,
rights and Freedom and to accept that others can share my FREEDOMS as they
share the air I breathe, they share the water I drink, they share the food I
eat, they share the education I receive, they share the same humanity that
composes me in to the human being I am, that is my motivation, my
inspiration, my spirit. Will Microsoft and BBC ever understand that? Is
there anyone in the world who understands this and can make a new
documentary about the true CODE BREAKERS from the FOSS Movement? I leave
this question to be answered by the readers.

These are the words of a South Asian Free & Open Source Software developer
and FOSS advocate or one of the true FOSS Code Breakers? Promoting ICT
Software Freedom for Everyone!

1. BBC World documentary titled "Code Breakers" http://www.bbcworld.com
2. Microsoft http://www.microsoft.com
3. Free Software Foundation http://www.fsf.org
4. The Open Source Initiative http://www.opensource.org
5. Raymond, E. S. (2001), The Cathedral and the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and
Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary, O'Reilly & Associates. 
6. Raymond, E. S., The Cathedral and the Bazaar,
7. The Spirit of Free and Open Source Software, Free and Open Source
Software Foundation of Pakistan http://www.fossfp.org/foss_spirit

Fouad Riaz Bajwa
General Secretary - FOSS Advocate
FOSSFP: Free & Open Source Software Foundation of Pakistan R Secretariat
E-Mail: bajwa@fossfp.org
URL: www.fossfp.org

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