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GNU is Not Unix

Stallman Goes to India 586

SureshD writes "The Hindu is reporting on a 40 minute long meeting between Richard Stallman and the Indian President - Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. After the interview, RMS said that the President was 'receptive' to his views that development of software should be seen as a political and social issue and not just from the technological point of view. Interestingly, the article mentions that the President had prepared for the meeting by downloading and reading Stallman's biography (Free as in Freedom) from the Internet."
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Stallman Goes to India

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  • by mumblestheclown ( 569987 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @04:37AM (#8156755)
    In a May 2003 speech, President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam noted that OSS offered India "a superior opportunity to modernize." This was followed just a short while later by India negotiaing a superiorly low-cost deal with microsoft for its services.

    I think one must look in terms of governmental actions on OSS in such a strategic light. Kalam, a figurehead king, may be a true believer, but insofar as his actions on software goes, he's being used as a pawn to gain better licensing terms from microsoft.

  • Before everyone gets confused, India has a parliamentary system of government so the President is not the head of the government. There are more details from the WikiPedia entry on India [].

    That is not to say Kalam isn't important, just that he mostly just gives speeches, not makes decisions.

  • by billstewart ( 78916 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @04:53AM (#8156808) Journal
    Back in the early-mid 90s (when I was last paying attention to the issue), Indian universities used to use Unix a lot. Perhaps the PC has crowded out that tradition, but we were well-positioned there for a while. Perhaps we can get that back.
  • by metlin ( 258108 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @05:02AM (#8156835) Journal
    Not true.

    A lot of govt. organizations in India today use OSS. For every area of the govt that uses Microsoft software, there is atleast one other counterpart which uses OSS.

    In fact, the last time I checked, a lot of states were having budget deficits. Guess what is it that they cut down on?

    I know for a fact that several nationalized banks as well as other govt agencies have switched to OSS.

    You think MS would get scared merely by the "threat" of OpenSource? The reason they are really scared is because there are parts of the nation that use OSS, and it works.

    Now THAT would explain why Microsoft is opening so many branches in India -- primarily because they would have the excuse of providing jobs, and to feed those jobs they would need the govts money for software.

    Do not think MS would be doing this unless there is a benefit for them.
  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) * on Monday February 02, 2004 @05:03AM (#8156837)
    I found this section interesting:

    Besides explaining the political philosophy of FOSS movement, Dr. Stallman said he also spoke to the President about the real intention behind Microsoft's plan to spread the use of computers in schools which was "akin to the colonial system of recruiting the local elite to help keep others in line.''

    Nothing like digging up the ghosts of the past to help sell an idea! It seemed a smart analogy to me.

    Perhaps someone should speak to the congress about Free Software in these terms - "Free software is like allowing your colony/company the independence to rule as it likes, instead of all your money being shipped to an uncaring vendor/government far away from the day-to-day concerns of your operation yet supposedly providing you relevant services to the work at hand."
  • Excellent timing. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pjbass ( 144318 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @05:04AM (#8156842) Homepage
    I have to say that this is kinda interesting and rather comforting to hear the Indian government's interest in the idealogies of open source, ala RMS. I work for a rather large corporation in the US that makes lots of processors, and the going jokes always involve something with our jobs migrating to India. In any case, it'd be nice to see that open source is embraced there. They have some excellent programmers (who work something like 16-20 hours a day) who, if applied to open source, could really contribute to the movement. Aligned with the fact that Bangalore recently surpassed Silicon Valley with the greatest number of technology jobs, let's just hope those jobs are working on the things that will benefit the OSDN.
  • by mc6809e ( 214243 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @05:06AM (#8156850)

    There is free as in free to do things without interference, and free as in getting something for nothing.

    They're not the same thing.

  • by provocative ( 725595 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @05:15AM (#8156874)
    Never mind, i didn't realize it was a question.. my bad! Given that India is still very much a developing country where schools and colleges don't have all the money to spend on expensive hardware and software, they would definitely be more interested in 'free as in beer'. And that is one of the biggest reason why Linux has such a big hold in the Indian universities. Microsoft is making it's way in, but I think it's going to be a long time before it makes any serious inroads into the Indian education system.
  • by LibrePensador ( 668335 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @05:18AM (#8156885) Journal
    A very old proverb says that "it's hard to be a prophet in one's own land."

    For some reason, Richard Stallman is demonized in the US as some eccentric loony. Yet the rest of the world actually holds him in very high regard. I have had the fortune of listening to him speak on the issue of software patents and not only was he articulate but he was able to appeal to a large audience made up of people from all walks of life.

    Even if you disagree with specific positions that RMS might take, you have to give the guy credit for standing his ground. To me the GPL is one of the cornerstones of the free software movement and its cultural and social implications will reverberate for generations.

  • Re:Full text (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Elektroschock ( 659467 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @05:24AM (#8156899)
    I prefer "FLOSS" as a term.

    However a support of India for Free Softwareon the international level may be very helpful in the defense against Software patents. There is still no *real US-movement* (join this list []:-)) but an Indian committment similar to Brazil could be beneficial on the internatioanl level.

    Also think of the fact that WSISII in Tunis will distribute UN money for IT- projects.
  • by jkrise ( 535370 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @05:46AM (#8156940) Journal
    This is simply not true. The President has in fact specifically mentioned the problems of choosing proprietary code, and unreliable vendors of said code. His vision is backed by political funding for universities, centers-of-excellence, and other initiatives for furthering open-source in India.

    To say that the President did this as a bargaining strategy with Microsoft is an insult. In fact, during a prior meeting with Mr.Gates, the press were full of pictures of Gates and Dr. Kalam strolling in the gardens. Dr. Kalam took special pains to mention that the discussions duringg that meeting 'turned difficult' since Mr.Gates wasn't seeing eye-to-eye with India's vision for computing.

  • Help me Slashdot. (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 02, 2004 @05:50AM (#8156951)
    (Slightly off topic, but related to the GPL).

    As a programmer, how can I make a living from open-source software? If I have an idea, some code - and put together a product - how do I keep a roof over my head? The problem is that seems to have become impossible to launch a new software product.

    * If you go commercial, nobody cares because a thousand open source alternatives will spring up.
    * If you go commercial open source, one person will buy it - and everybody else will get it for free from them.
    * If you go open source, nobody wants to pay for support.

    My assertions are:

    * Open source = good.
    * Programming full-time = good (I was laid off at the end of January).
    * Making a living from programming open source software full-time = ??? how ???

    Slashdotters, help me here - how could I launch a new software product - that I open the source to under the GPL - yet still make enough money to pay my rent?

    (Note that this product would be for end-users, corporations would not be interested - and charging for support and charging for special features would probably be impossible.)
  • by arvindn ( 542080 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @06:03AM (#8156972) Homepage Journal
    India is more left leaning on the "Free software" vs. "open source" question than the US. One reason is definitely the colonial past.

    Communism is not a bad word here. In fact there are a couple of states which have had communist governments for much of their existence. Naturally this contributes to linux's popularity. Now don't get me wrong, all I'm saying is that the idea of sharing appeals to communists.

    Our president is a cool guy. As someone already pointed out, the president is not a political figure in India. But Kalam is a respected person and gives a lot of speeches and many people listen to him etc.

    Linux usage in India is definitely rather high. The obvious reason is that there are more programmers ==> more nerds etc. But its far from the only reason. Even though unauthorized copying (I won't use the p-word) is very prevalent, those buying a branded PC will still have to pay for Windows. This is a big factor in the cost conscious Indian market. So in the last 8 months, the number of OEMs pre-loading linux has exploded. Today half the PC ads I see in the paper are MS-free! I can also feel the change at the grassroots level -- neighbors, tech support etc.

    The future looks bright.

  • India on the ball (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 0x0d0a ( 568518 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @06:22AM (#8157003) Journal
    You know, India's president is an engineering PhD. We have George Bush, a C student who had his wealthy family get him his position.

    India puts a good deal of emphasis on producing engineers. Surprise -- India is improving its lot at a stunning rate.

    Plenty of things are wrong with India, but we could take a lesson from it as well.
  • by TwistedSquare ( 650445 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @06:46AM (#8157065) Homepage
    OSS does not have a future in a developing market like India.

    It depends on the ethos there. Over in the UK and the US very few companies (as in software houses) create OSS. A lot of people do work on OSS in their spare time, and of course companies like RedHat use OSS but the vast majority of third-party software is closed-source. So if India is even slightly freer in their thinking than here then they will probably contribute more to OSS.

  • by zungu ( 588387 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @06:52AM (#8157075) Journal
    President is the official, though ceremonial, head of the executive branch of the Government in India. It is more like the Queen in U.K., who is a formal head, but the real executive is the prime minister and his cabinet. I have a gold medal in Indian constitutional law.
  • by Moridineas ( 213502 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @07:08AM (#8157112) Journal
    Not to contradict any of your points, but ultimately the Indian president isn't _that_ powerful. Kalam is very interesting as the first Muslim president of India, and a major player in the development of the bomb! Beyond that, he is interesting as a muslim, he is a golden boy of the BJP, and they are in fact responsible for his election. Kalam is in short the type of Muslim that the BJP likes--secular, known to have read the Ghitas, etc. An interesting character!
  • by justin_speers ( 631757 ) <`ten.tsacmoc' `ta' `sreepsaj'> on Monday February 02, 2004 @07:18AM (#8157141)
    I find it so interesting that so many /.'ers complain about outsourcing and the loss of American tech jobs (whether a legitimate complaint or not), yet...

    Everyone seems so willing to make the argument other countries should not rely so much on foreign (American) software.

    Wouldn't that mean the loss of more American tech jobs? Aren't those lines of thinking in conflict?

    Or is it okay to lose tech jobs, as long as those jobs are Microsoft's, and somehow that won't affect other tech jobs.???
  • by jkrise ( 535370 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @07:20AM (#8157151) Journal
    One other person says that Dr.Kalam is a Jesuit Alumni and now you say he's a Muslim - I say, what does it matter? Software has no religion, neither does democracy - so when the head of a democratic setup makes a decision on the type of software that would be most suited for his country, his religion should have zero-relevance.

    Secondly, he was not the first choice of the BJP, in fact the then vice-president was a hard-core BJP man, but was rejected by Mr.Chandrababu Naidu, who propped up Dr.Kalam's candidature. Incidentally, Mr.Naidu is Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, where Microsoft has it's biggest Indian-operations center - they wrote the SFU and the command shell with .Net elements over there.

    To sum up, the religious background or acadmeic record of most people in India has little relevance in a multi-culturous environment.

  • by pandrijeczko ( 588093 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @07:35AM (#8157184)
    Everyone seems so willing to make the argument other countries should not rely so much on foreign (American) software.

    If you believe this then you're missing the point entirely. The backlash is not against "American software", it's against being locked into proprietary code and proprietary protocols.
    The fact that MS believe only in the proprietary model means that they are the focus of the backlash a lot of the time - however, traditional Unix vendors like SCO and Sun are also targets of much criticism by the Open Source community.

    Wouldn't that mean the loss of more American tech jobs? Aren't those lines of thinking in conflict?

    Tech jobs will go to India purely because it's cheaper to hire a techie in India rather than the US or Europe. A company's decision to do that is based purely on profit and it's irrelevant whether the techies support Windows, Linux, etc.

    Or is it okay to lose tech jobs, as long as those jobs are Microsoft's, and somehow that won't affect other tech jobs.???

    No, it's not alright for just MS to lose jobs but please remember that it's the company's own decision to lay off its workforce, not some external factor.
    I'm a firm believer in goverment taxation of profits for companies that outsource jobs outside of countries where they do the most business.
    As far as I am concerned, if a company makes money in a particular country, then it has an obligation to not just take money out of that country but put something back into it like jobs and livelihoods - i.e. it should be made more expensive to outsource jobs to another country due to taxation of profits.

  • by Moridineas ( 213502 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @07:39AM (#8157199) Journal

    One other person says that Dr.Kalam is a Jesuit Alumni and now you say he's a Muslim - I say, what does it matter? Software has no religion, neither does democracy - so when the head of a democratic setup makes a decision on the type of software that would be most suited for his country, his religion should have zero-relevance.

    Being educated at a Jesuit school (which he may or may not have--I don't know) doesn't necessarily make one a Jesuit, a Catholic, or even a Christian. Especially in India and Africa, the educated elite even today often come from religious schools set up by colonial European powers. IIRC, Abdul Kalam is from Tamil Nadu, and the Jesuits did have signifigant influence in the South. Incidentally, he's not the "Head of a democratic" setup--the Indian president is simply not that powerful--and that was my prime point--he's much more of a figurehead than anything else.

  • by archilocus ( 715776 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @08:39AM (#8157448) Homepage

    As far as I am concerned, if a company makes money in a particular country, then it has an obligation to not just take money out of that country but put something back into it like...

    Tax ???

    You can't force a company to 'create' jobs in a country where they trade, it's nonsense. At best you can bar them from entering the market through something like tariffs.

    I'm a firm believer in goverment taxation of profits for companies that outsource jobs outside of countries where they do the most business.

    The US is the largest consumer market in the world ($spent/capita) so everyone should put money back into the US economy ? Or how about if I mine iron ore and ship it to China do I have to pay more tax/create more jobs in China ?

    Protectionism doesn't make any sense whatsoever in a gloabl market - it only makes sense when you're protecting parochial interests in one country. Even then it doesn't make a lot of sense since if you have to protect the industry you've already lost the battle, it's just a matter of time.

  • Re:POI's website (Score:3, Interesting)

    by zungu ( 588387 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @09:49AM (#8157784) Journal
    I disagree. APJ Kalam, the president did not decide whether to create the Indian Nuclear program or even support it. Most of his career he worked in launch vehicles for civilian satellite launching. Yes, he did work on missiles, but then they are not WMDs. And what is this WMD distate about? Western powers can have WMDs but not India? You cannot even say that India is an irresponsible rogue state and hence cannot have Nuclear weapons. India is 1/6th of humanity on earth, and a responsible democracy for last 50 years. When surrounded by China and Pakistan, there are few options for such countries. If you live in western country go ahead and tell your government to dump all its WMDs.
  • by fucksl4shd0t ( 630000 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @10:54AM (#8158389) Homepage Journal

    Republic is where the citizens vote on who will make laws. Democracy is where the citizens vote on the laws themselves. Most states, cities, and counties in the US are a hybrid of democracy and republic, but our Federal government is pure republic.

    It's really very simple. In a republic, the people vote on who will represent them in government, and theoretically those people who are elected are going to make laws in accordance with the will of the citizens. The citizens themselves don't get to pick and chose the laws or have any say in them, other than contacting their elected official. The citizens don't get to propose laws in a formal fashion, and they don't get to vote on the laws themselves. The relationship between the people and the elected officials is one of employer to employee. The elected officials are chosen as qualified in legal matters, versed in social issues, and so forth. The underlying assumptions are also very simple. The people, as an aggregate, do not have the time to deal with day-to-day management of the government. Neither do they have the education and expertise required to manage the government. So they chose people who will work full-time (or part-time, as is the case in most cities and counties) to manage the government and who have the education and expertise to do so.

    A democracy is quite different. In a democracy the people get to chose the laws, and there are no elected officials. The people have to spend their time managing day-to-day government affairs, and that's in addition to the time they spend just working and playing with their families. Democracy doesn't work on a large scale without the help of many of the traits of a Republic, which is why states have their own elected bodies, governors, and so forth. Democracy is what this country had when it was a bunch of english colonies. The townspeople would gather regularly (weekly was pretty common) and discuss the issues, vote on laws, and so forth.

    Communism is actually supposed to be democracy, except in Communism all citizens are equal. They get paid the same amount of money, so there's no aristocracy in any fashion. They also are supposed to chose the laws themselves. Communism in its purest form hasn't been implemented on a large scale, but frequently shows up in small scales, such as in the early days of Salt Lake City, and the early days of the original English colonies.

    Monarchy gives absolute power to a single individual, and religion is used to seal his power. Inheritance is what usually determines the next King or Queen (or Emperor, or Tsar). The "Divine Right of Kings" is what gives the king his power, and the ruling class (aka nobility) consists of the King's extended family and anybody he appoints to that class. Feudalism is the economic system of Monarchy, which is theoretically a combination of the free market and communism, but that's not really the best way to describe feudalism.

    Other forms of dictatorial style government exist. The Romans adapted their Republic to a dictatorial style of government when Caesar became the first emperor of Rome. Caesar was elected to be the emperor in a process that is very similar to what we see in the new Star Wars movies. A precedent was set that passes the Emperor from father to son, but there were other ways of choosing an emperor used in Rome. Justin, the Emperor that reconquered the Western half of the Roman Empire in the 500s AD, was elected. He was born a commoner and rose to power on the strengths of his own leadership.

    A dictionary isn't good enough to define these complex systems of government. History is better, where you'll learn that the ancient greek city-states experimented with every form of government currently known to man. I suggest you study your ancient greeks to learn more about this subject. The fact is, every form of government we know about right now can be combined with any/all of the other forms. Communism, as I indicated, isn't actually a complete form of government. It's an economic system. The way the Soviets implemented it it was totalitarian rule with communism as the economic system. We've seen plenty totalitarian rule with capitalism and feudalism as the economic systems, so this concept isn't really hard to grasp.

  • by haystor ( 102186 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @12:16PM (#8159247)
    Sure, con artists do it all the time.

    It is not the threat they believe so much as the confidence of the other person.

    Also, it is a threat whether a person believes it or not.
  • by HiThere ( 15173 ) * <{ten.knilhtrae} {ta} {nsxihselrahc}> on Monday February 02, 2004 @03:25PM (#8161385)
    Have you met a missionary pagan?
    They why do you assume they exist.

    (Well, they actually do exist. I attribute this to a christian upbringing which rather permanently warped them.)

    I've also met missionary Buddists. They, also, are rare. And tend to be of peculiar splinter sects.

    Muslims are required by their religion to convert you. For athiests it's an optional extra. There's nothing inherent in atheism that says you must go around converting people. But if you were raised christian or muslim, you're likely to feel the need to do it anyway.

    OTOH, not all christians are missionary. There are even rather large groups that don't feel the compulsion (as a group) to require everyone to believe the same way that they do. But it is implicit in the standard theology. (If you believe that you should "love" everyone [in some sense of the term], and you believe that everyone who doesn't believe as you believe will be tortured forever [by a god that loves them], then it is only natural to want to help both the god and the person to remove the cognitive dissonance by causing them to believe as you believe. So missionary activity is normal to normal christian theology.)

    But this same reasoning doesn't apply to the other religions. The Muslims must cause you to convert because the Koran tells them to. The Buddists have an implicit need to "save" you, but there are many turns of the wheel in which to accomplish the end. No need to hurry. (There's lots of disagreement about the details of this last bit, but that's the general flavor.)

    And Pagans? Well, the followers of the Sun god cults tend to believe that theirs is the only true way, but the other groups tend to consider them a bit strange. The animists don't even really have a concept that corresponds to "convert". There are, we could call them Momotheists who try to get everyone to accept The Goddess as a substitue for The Father, but that's probably due to a monotheistic upbringing. There's nothing obviously inherrent in the religion to demand universal belief. The polytheists are usually willing to consider that any new god might be one of the real ones. The pantheists already accept the new god, without quibble. Though neither group will necessarily accept the god on his own terms. Gods PR agents are no more reliable than any othe PR agents.

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