Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Open Movements

The Development of Open Source Software is of fundamental importance for the Philippines but largely untapped. What is Open Source Software? it isn't free as in free as beer, rather open source software means anybody has the fundamental right to have access to the source code, to redistribute it freely, it holds no discrimination on use, or against people and groups, and fields of endevour and many more.

"source code" for uninitiated is the english instructions that humans feed a computer so that it can for example, display your webbrowser. Another fit analogy would be--- the source code is the blueprint to your house and the house is your web broswer.

why is this Open Source methodology such of great importance? it doesn't make software free--- it doesn't make you pay for it any less, though sometimes it does and it is arguably a debatable issue when you stack up all other costs. so why is this important to Filipinos? simply this: the translation of information, of techniques, of technologies, of best practices creates an even playing field that allows even the poorest of the poor a low bar of entry, access to a global, near infinite pool of information and talent.

Anyone with the determination, the opportunity to access the Internet, which is largely getting easier everyday not only with the rise of internet cafes but of cheaper broadband access can stand on the shoulder of giants and build software and computing technologies, relatively cheap.

Across businesses not just here in the Philippines but around the world, Open Source is catching on but not the wildfire it promises to be. Corporate space largely doubt using it unless one key fundamental issue is overcome--- Technical Support and packaging. Take for example, IBM's Websphere, which is sold worldwide by IBM. this software is built upon the same existing technology called Apache, which IBM helps to fund. But offer an open source alternative, by an unbranded college student and chances are, the team will go with IBM--- not primarily because of the brand name but because of service and support. those are key feature, but the important thing is this--- solutions and opportunities are even between the two because the fundamental cook book is the same whether you're a big name entity or someone starting out from their family's garage.

Linux is a free operating system--- downloadable in multitude of forms and setups--- from distributions like Red Hat, Suse, Ubuntu or do it yourself like Gentoo or Kororaa. If you compute time and electricity spent downloading (getting huge files via bittorrent is faster) it which typically ranges from 50MB to 1GB distribution, you will find it be cheaper than buying an OEM copy of Microsoft Windows. The latter is just the operating system, while the former includes such freebies like a free Office Suite like, compatible with Microsoft Office's format.

Think of the cost savings for small businesses! A typical PC from a local white box manfactuer will cost you between PHP15,000 to PHP25,000--- this is purely for office use, word processing, a bit of spreadsheet. add in a licensed copy of microsoft windows--- which is about 8k to 10k and a licensed copy of Office for small business typically more than 11k--- and you'll be spending roughly the equivalent of another pc. Do you get microsoft products cheaper if buying in bulk? no you don't because you'll be paying the same licensing fee, with added support.

What does the typical Filipino say about open source? or anything not microsoft? certainly at first glance--- they find it difficult. "it's hard" largely because they don't know anything else. but give them a few minutes instruction of where which is--- webbrowser, logging on, logging off, office suite, and things like that and they'll get it. Does it take some getting used to? if all you're doing are those things, then no. the messy part goes into the details--- a distro that doesn't install properly things like media player--- for viewing windows media, realplayer, quicktime will suck. the greater mess is doing administrative work on your machine--- command line action is typical and powerful.

open source is spreading--- like take this account on a local Doctor who uses Firefox.

is linux for example ugly or unimpressive or less user friendly? tomorrow's innovation can be found in open source. take bleeding edge technologies like "3d graphics" that Mac OSX made popular can be found in open source--- way before the launch of Windows Vista. (Mac OSX is also built upon Open Source and Unix). Take a look at these screenshots from linux edge: 1, 2, 3. although, if you want a really excellent box--- that has the benefits of all things linux, powerful standard applications from windows' space like photoshop, microsoft office, you need not go farther than a Mac.

what other benefits of using open source? well for the graphic artists and creative types--- we filipinos have lots of those try to take a look at gimp for example which is a free graphics application to rival photoshop, or this 3D animation tool called Blender. they're all free for download and use, no restrictions, which becomes an excellent reason not to pirate software. and these are all available in Windows, Mac, and Linux formats. did i already mention that the Internet is powered largely by the Apache Web server? Which is an open source project?

many open source projects are community based--- which we Filipinos can adapt to being all of us live in a barangay. they're just like little barangays on the Internet! the advantage of open source is any person can join in on the fun--- whether you live in davao, in cebu in manila or in antartica. it teaches a do-it-yourself mentality, it lets you act now. this is a power most Filipinos may want to grasp and you need not have money to do it.