[floss-cec] Re: The SFD celebrations at schools,

  • From: Aparna <aparnagkrishna@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: floss-cec@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 26 Sep 2006 21:18:19 +0530


Welcome to the webpage of the FLOSS cell at College of Engineering Chengannur.

What is Free Software Free software is a matter of freedom, not cost. It is a matter of liberty, not price. The word `free' in free software has a similar meaning as in free speech, free people and free country and should not be confused with its other meaning associated with zero-cost. Think of free software as software which is free of encumbrances, not necessarily free of cost. Think of it as swatantra software.

In the beginning, all software was free. However, some software businesses concluded that they could maximize profits and gain a so-called competitive advantage by restricting the freedoms of their software customers. So they decided to take away their customers' freedom to share, freedom to help themselves and freedom to help others by withholding the software's source code and/or by making them enter into restrictive (and at times, even humiliating) legal contracts such as end user license agreements and non-disclosure agreements. This model of software business subsequently became widespread because of the perceived ease with which software businesses could make money out of this unethical business model, with complete disregard for their customers' rights. This non-free software business model lies at the heart of what we now call the proprietary software industry which has an unfortunately large majority of software users under their control.

Society should reject such a business model which criminalises the act of
sharing and which deprives people of their fundamental right to help
themselves and to help others. This can be achieved by developing and using
only free software.

Free software frees people from the clutches of the proprietary software
industry. It gives them the freedom to share, to help themselves and to help

Please see the free software definition published by the Free Software Foundation for clear guidelines on what requirements any software should meet in order to qualify as free software. While you are there, please also spend some time going through the philosophy section for more in-depth literature on free software.

What is Open Source Software
     Software whose source code is published and made available to the
public, enabling anyone to copy, modify and redistribute the source code
without paying royalties or fees. The open source software might not be free
but all free software is open source.

What is GNU/Linux
   The GNU Project was launched in 1984 by Richard M Stallman to develop a
complete Unix-like operating system which is free software: the GNU system.
(GNU is a recursive acronym for ``GNU's Not Unix''; it is pronounced
"guh-NEW".) Variants of the GNU operating system, which use the kernel
Linux, are now widely used; though these systems are often referred to as
``Linux'', they are more accurately called GNU/Linux systems.

The Gnu is the mascot of the world-wide free software movement and the GNU
system is its flag-ship software suite.

What is our purpose

Promoting the use of Free or Open-Source Software in the college and making
the staff and students aware of thier freedom. It will also be a great
oppurtunity for the students to see the source codes written by actual
programmers. We also encourage students to do projects and contribute to the
FLOSS. Also, the local community, schools, offices in Chengannur will be
educated and given support in using FLOSS.


Memorandum Submitted by Members of the Free Software Users' Group, Kochi,
Maruti Vilas Lodge, Canon Shed Road, Cochin - 682011.


Ref:- IT@School Project - choice of software and syllabus -

We, the undersigned, have recently come across what the government calls the
IT@SCHOOL project. We are extremely happy and fully endorse the objectives
and intention behind the scheme, in so far as the government has made it
possible to bring IT education to even very poor students in our State, at a
nominal cost. We are very much proud of our government in that our
government is one of the few governments in the world which has made it
possible to bring IT education to the masses at a very nominal cost as
envisaged in the IT@SCHOOL scheme.

However, we submit that implementation of the scheme as it is would harm the
long term interests of our State, the general public and the Country. There
would be very serious violation of our citizens' basic legal and
constitutional rights. We understand that the government has made a few
changes within the past few weeks to the syllabus and textbooks. But, we
submit that the changes do not go far enough to redress the real issues
involved in the matter. We wish, by this letter, to bring to your kind
attention, the following issues and request you to remedy them without
further delay.

1. Choice of Software and Commercial Fairness

1.1 We find the manner in which the software to be used at the schools is
chosen, and manner in which it is chosen, to be disturbing. The syllabus has
prescribed software by brand. It is regrettable that the government has not
framed or adopted any guidelines or standards to be followed for choosing
the software. The IT@SCHOOL project patronises and prefers one brand over
other products; and in making this choice, the government has not followed
due procedure laid down by law. We submit that this is not fair to creators
and vendors of other software.

1.2 We gather that there are nearly 2600 high schools in Kera1a. The scheme
envisages that each school should have 10 computers within next three years.
Cost of prescribed operating system is approximately Rs. 3500/- per
computer. The application software specified in the syllabus costs another
Rs. 25,000/- per computer. At the prescribed ratio of 10 computers per
school, by the year 2004, this will cost the schools an astounding Rs.
74,10,00,000/- (rupees seventy four crores and ten lakhs) - (Rs. 3,500 + Rs.
25,000 = Rs. 28,500 x 10 computers per school x 2600 schools).

1.3 Even if the said corporation whose software is chosen provides software
free of cost, we submit that the government should not include it in the
syllabus. Providing schools or other educational institutions software at
little or no cost, while the same software is sold at very high prices in
the open market is a marketing trick. The corporation resorts to such
tactics in order to reap benefits of having a pool of people who are
familiar with their software packages and thus form an assured customer
base, either as users themselves or as potential skilled employees. We are
aware that equipping our students and teachers with skills in computer usage
is the primary aim of the project.

1.4 But, by confining students' training to a particular brand of software,
the government would be giving undue preference to a particular vendor and
their software thus discriminating against vendors of other software. Thus,
even by providing software free of cost to the schools, the said company
will make immense profits, to the detriment of public welfare and without
any corresponding gain to the public, state or institutions. You will
recognise that this policy discriminates against vendors of other software
and in favour of a particular corporation. You would be aware that this is
discrimination and unconstitutional.

1.5 The Supreme Court has laid down in several cases that the government
shall be fair and equitable in choosing beneficiaries of government
activities. The IT@SCHOOL project involves expenses from funds; created with
authorization from government and in pursuance of and compliance with
guidelines and rules issued by the State government or other statutory
authorities in exercise of statutory power vested in them by the Kerala
Education Act. Hence, the government has an obligation to act fairly and
equitably while choosing software for school curriculum. But, regrettably,
we find that there is not even an attempt to act fairly in the matter of
prescribing syllabus and curriculum for the IT@SCHOOL project.

1.6 We also would like to point out that Government's approach would result
in compelling not only schools, but also the general public to purchase
software from this particular vendor in the future, because people have been
denied access to software from other vendors. This would create a monopoly
in favour of that corporation and expose the public, the State and the
nation to the mercy of a single company. It may be recalled that this
particular corporation has been found guilty of unfair, monopolistic and
restrictive trade practices in its own country.

1.7 We note that in G.O. (MS) No.297/2001/G. Edn. dated 29.09.2001 the
government has specified that 'Volume licensing terms of necessary software
will be negotiated with software manufacturers'. This is a very regrettable
approach on part of the government. Negotiations can be only between persons
or bodies having equal bargaining power. A prerequisite of equal bargaining
power is that that both parties have the freedom of choice. But, when
schools are compelled to purchase a particular brand because it is
prescribed in the syllabus, the schools have no real choice and hence, no
real negotiating power. Thus the concept of negotiation looses relevance.

2. Government Should Specify Standards Rather Than Products or Brands

2.1 The computer and the software which drives it are the communication
media of the future. Even today, digital media has replaced traditional
forms of communication in several situations. Digital communication
interposes machine language (language of the computer) between humans. Human
language, whether it be the spoken word, the written verse, or visual
symbols all are converted to machine language by the computer which
originates communication and are converted back to human understandable form
by the computer which receives the communication. It is therefore a
prerequisite of free and unhindered computerised communication between
humans that computers understand languages 'spoken' by each other. Language
used by one machine need not be the same as the language used by another.
But, different machines/computers can understand each other using
internationally accepted standards. Such standards need to be openly
available and accessible to the public. While prescribing software for
schools, the government has an important role of ensuring that software
prescribed or selected conforms to such standards.

2.2 The corporation whose brands and products are prescribed does not
publish standards used in their software. Even in respect of standards
recognized by the entire industry, this particular corporation is known to
create its own variations outside the scope of such universal standards.
Such extensions to the standards are not published by this corporation and
information/files/ programs using such extensions cannot be accessed except
with applications or programs available exclusively from that particular
corporation. This practice compels not only users of products from that
vendor, but also other people who are forced to interact with users of that
vendor's products (like the government and schools, in this case) to
purchase software from this particular vendor alone. This situation is known
as 'vendor lock-in' or 'vendor dependence'. This is contrary to public
interest and harmful to the society in the long run. The government should
not create an atmosphere which facilitates such dependence. It is essential
that the government and schools insist on using software which uses and
conforms to freely available standards so that people who interact with them
are not forced to use software from the same vendor as the government or the

2.3 It should be realised that vendor dependence is extremely expensive for
the government in the long term. We will elaborate on this issue below.

2.4 We wish to bring to the attention of the Government that several
software packages, both applications as well as operating systems, which
conform to industry-wide standards, adopted and maintained by independent
vendors - both non profit organizations and for profit commercial bodies
(individuals and corporations) are available. A list of vendors who sell
such products for a price is available at web sites like,
http://www.gnu.org/directory/ and http:// forum.gnu.org.in/bizdir and,
probably, there are other vendors who have not been listed on such sites.

2.5 In these circumstances, by prescribing that software of a particular
brand alone shall be used, the Government is cutting off access to a wider
choice for itself and the citizens of Kerala and also cutting off the
possibility of tremendous savings of money for itself and the citizens of
Kerala. In the long run, such restrictions on the ability to choose would
ultimately restrict ability of computers and people to interact with each
other through computers.

3. The Issue of Copyright

3.1 We notice that the government has been very meticulous in prescribing
the hardware to be used along with indicative prices. However, there is no
provision for software costs in the estimates and accounting guidelines
published as part of the IT@SCHOOL scheme.

3.2 This approach will encourage schools to make unauthorized copies of
software. The law as it stands now prohibits copying of software by schools
without permission. Therefore, the government has a duty to ensure that
rules / regulations / guidelines framed by it facilitates compliance with
law by the persons or bodies targeted by such rules or guidelines. We submit
that the government's approach of not providing sufficient funds for
purchase of software will bring the schools into conflict with the law
relating to Copyrights and the harsh license enforcement programs by the
software corporations. Ultimately, this will expose school managements,
(including government run schools) to litigation, including criminal action
by copyright holders of software prescribed. Hence, it is essential that
software to be used in schools are made available under a license which
incorporates freedom of use.

3.3 Management of software licenses is a complex task, requiring constant
legal supervision. Large corporations vending proprietary software enforce
their license restr-ictions harshly - even claiming that the visual
appearance of the screen is copyrighted. Thus, even use of 'screen shots' in
textbooks without appropriate permissions will invite action from the
copyright owners against the gover-nment and its agencies responsible for
preparing text books.

3.4 We understand that the government has not received any consent from the
copyright holders to use screen shots in the text books. We would like to
point out that certain corporations have initiated litigation in other
foreign countries, claiming copyright over screen appearance. We do not want
our government to be put in such embarrassing situations by uninformed use
of inappropriate software and technology. We hope and trust that the
government will see reason and exclude proprietary software from the school

3.5 We also would like to point out that due to inappropriate handling of
licensing issues, several schools in the United States of America have, in
recent past, found that they are unable to answer Microsoft Corporation's
request for an account of licenses for the number of computers used by them.
For example, in 1994-95, some schools in Los Angeles have had to pay fines
of up to $300,000 (equivalent of Rupees 1,44,00,000/- or One crores and
forty four lakhs) in fines and to further spend an identical amount for
purchasing actual licenses. This was in addition to the legal expenses and
the embarrassment of facing public humiliation.

3.6 In this context, we request the government to recall the recent problems
faced by the highly successful and popular 'FRIENDS' project. If the
concerned agencies were adequately aware of issues relating to copyright and
licensing, the unfortunate incidents of executives and officers of
quasi-governmental organizations being arrested by the police and detained
in custody, like petty thieves could have been avoided. We would like to
point out that unless the government is careful, teachers in our schools too
might be faced with a similar situation.

3.7 The government or the schools should not have to constantly worry about
licensing issues and should be free to teach. Imposing proprietary software
on the schools means pushing the school administrations and managements into
the difficult and tricky area of license management. The schools should be
free to choose software of their choice; but if the government wishes to
impose its own choice on the schools, the government has an obligation to
ensure that no present or future burden, economic, social or technological,
is imposed on the school managements.

4. The Prescription Stifles Development of Software Skills

4.1 If our students are to really understand and learn programming and
develop software skills, they should learn not only to use computers, but
also understand why they function the way they do. This involves learning
programing skills. To learn programing, students should have access to
source code of the software they use. We trust that you have studied and
understood the terms under which the corporation, whose software is
currently prescribed for study, licenses its software. It should be
emphasised that they do not provide access to source code, which is a a
closely guarded secret. By insisting on programs from a particular company,
the government is denying our students an opportunity to learn about
programs and software development skills. We need not repeat that this
policy would not help our community in the long run.

4.2 We do appreciate that the IT@SCHOOL project may not involve teaching
programing skills to the students; but at a young age, the students are
curious, and are apt to explore and examine the systems they are using. This
is an excellent opportunity to introduce students to software programing.
Providing access to source code to the students who display curiosity about
understanding software programing would channelise their creativity into
development of useful skills. On the contrary, denying access to source code
might result in such students being frustrated, and turning to unproductive

5. Proprietary Software Is More Expensive Over Long Term

5.1 It goes without saying that all software packages, including those
prescribed in the syllabus are covered by copyright. The corporation which
provides the prescribed packages charges license fees for each computer on
which their software is used. Moreover, the Operating system and the
application software packages (MS Word, as per the syllabus) has to be
purchased separately, and separate licenses have to be obtained for each
machine / computer. It should be recalled that the government is aiming to
have computers in all the schools in Kerala by the year 2004 at the rate of
between 6 and 15 computers per school, in all the more than 2600 schools in

5.2 We have already pointed out that this would cost the state over 74 crore
rupees in terms of license fees alone at the modest rate of 10 computers per
school. The government has actually prescribed use of up to 15 computers per
school. Thus, there would be more than 41,600 computers in schools alone by
the year 2004, and either the schools, or the government, stands to lose,
and the corporation actually stands to gain, not merely rupees 74 crores,
but sums far in excess of Rs. 118,56,00,000/- (Rupees one hundred and
eighteen crores, fifty six lakhs) on license fees alone.

5.3 Apart from initial license costs, the government / schools would have to
incur recurring expenditure on software maintenance and upgrades. This
happens because however well developed a software package is, it is always
prone to defects known as bugs. Since source code for the software
prescribed in the syllabus is not available, the schools will be dependent
on the same vendor for upgrades and 'bug fixes' and also have to
periodically pay them for such services. The vendor would therefore be in a
position to extract more money from the government or the schools in the
long run. However, when source code for software is made available, with
universal permission to modify and redistribute, it is possible for anybody
with the necessary skills to provide after sales services, thus resulting in
competition and consequent cost savings.

5.4 On the other hand, creators of free software have explicitly permitted
modification and redistribution of their programs, without any royalties.
Therefore, the schools would not be tied down to after sales service from
vendors who created the software alone. When software is available with
support from several vendors, this would naturally keep the prices low. Yet
another difficulty with frequent upgrades is that the government / schools
would be compelled to replace hardware too, (like processors, hard disks,
memory modules, etc.) thus further adding to total costs.

5.5 In these circumstances, the government's insistence on the schools
purchasing proprietary, non-standard, and expensive software cannot be
justified on any account, and makes no commercial sense.

6. Obsolescence

6.1 It is very surprising to notice that the documents relating to the
IT@SCHOOL project mandates usage of Windows 98 operating system
pre-installed on all computers purchased by the schools. Windows 98 is a
very much outdated product. Several newer versions of that operating system
have been issued and are currently in market. Very fact that you are
insisting on outdated products shows that the government has acted in a very
arbitrary and capricious manner in prescribing the syllabus and choosing the
topics to be studied.

6.2 Software is subject to very rapid changes. Average life cycle of
software packages is between six to eighteen months. However, syllabi in
Kerala are reviewed only once in four to five years. This would result in
our students having to study obsolete software packages for a long time in
between syllabus reviews. In view of such rapidly changing product versions
it is most inappropriate for the government to prescribe software by brands
or versions in school syllabus. We hope that the government will desist from
insisting on branded software on this grounds alone.

7. Manpower

7.1 It is seen from one of the documents issued in connection with the
project that government is of the opinion that no trained manpower is
available for software other than what is prescribed in the syllabus. If
that be so, we fail to understand why several thousands of teachers were
trained over a long time, spending several lakhs of rupees. They could have
been equally well trained in free software packages.

7.2 We wish to assure you that ample trained manpower capable of handling
free software and also training school teachers and trainers to teach in the
IT@SCHOOL project is available in Kerala itself. Lists of businesses,
companies or individuals willing to provide support for free software is
available at web sites like http://forum.gnu.org.in/ bizdir and

7.3 We would also like to point out that free software is neither 'freeware'
nor 'alternative software' as sought to be made out in the
'IT@SCHOOLProject - an Approach Paper'. 'Freeware' is software
available at no
monetary cost. 'Free software' on the other hand, is about freedom, not
cost. 'Alternatives' are required when we are compelled to use one
particular thing or product. We are not aware of any compulsion on the
government to use any particular software. This being so, we fail to
understand such terminology used by the government.

7.4 We wish to clarify that by the term 'Free Software' used above, we are
referring to 'freedom', as in 'swatantryam' - not 'soujanyam'. By freedom,
we mean: (1) freedom to run the program, for any purpose; (2) freedom to
study how the program works, and adapt it to the user's needs; (3) The
freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbour; (4) The
freedom to modify the program, and release improvements to the public, so
that the whole community benefits. It may be appreciated that access to the
source code is a precondition for enjoying freedoms 2 and 4.

7.5 We trust that the government will not be misled by wrong terminology and
misconceptions. We wish to point out that governments of several developed
countries have successfully adopted free software for various purposes and
have openly acknowledged advantages of using free software. We may also
point in this context, the experience of the Kerala Bureau of Industrial
Promotion, which, in association with the Free Software Foundation of India,
is developing software in Malayalam. This is possible only because they are
using free software - software created by others and made available to the
general public with the 'swatantryam' to legally use, modify and
redistribute the same for the greater common good.

7.6 In case the government has any doubts about free software, we and other
persons sharing our views on this issue, or our representatives will be most
happy to meet and show the government how to go about preparing the
necessary framework and guidelines, including preparation of course
material, syllabus, hardware and software specifications, etc.

7.7 We trust that the government would view the issue not merely as one of
cost or preferring one software or company over other. The basic question is
one of freedom of choice for each individual and an entire community. What
is at stake is not merely commercial rights or expenses of a few rupees. It
is the question of liberty and independence for the public.

We request you to consider all these issues and review the syllabus and
other various notifications issued in pursuance of the IT@SCHOOL scheme, and
hereby request the government to:-

A. discontinue references to brand names and proprietary software in the
syllabus, guidelines, notifications and other requirements under the
IT@SCHOOL project.

B. frame rules requiring the use of software which does not require payment
of any kind of royalties and implements open, industry wide standards in the
schools and educational institutions in the state.

C. frame rules requiring that source code for all software and operating
systems, applications and programs used in the school curriculum be
published or otherwise made available to the public, students, schools and

D. frame rules requiring that only such software which is permitted to be
modified and maintained by third parties shall be used in schools and
educational institutions.


Why schools should use exclusively free software

by Richard Stallman

There are general reasons why all computer users should insist on free
software. It gives users the freedom to control their own computers--with
proprietary software, the computer does what the software owner wants it to
do, not what you want it to do. Free software also gives users the freedom
to cooperate with each other, to lead an upright life. These reasons apply
to schools as they do to everyone.

But there are special reasons that apply to schools. They are the subject of
this article.

First, free software can save the schools money. Even in the richest
countries, schools are short of money. Free software gives schools, like
other users, the freedom to copy and redistribute the software, so the
school system can make copies for all the computers they have. In poor
countries, this can help close the digital divide.

This obvious reason, while important, is rather shallow. And proprietary
software developers can eliminate this disadvantage by donating copies to
the schools. (Watch out!--a school that accepts this offer may have to pay
for future upgrades.) So let's look at the deeper reasons.

School should teach students ways of life that will benefit society as a
whole. They should promote the use of free software just as they promote
recycling. If schools teach students free software, then the students will
use free software after they graduate. This will help society as a whole
escape from being dominated (and gouged) by megacorporations. Those
corporations offer free samples to schools for the same reason tobacco
companies distribute free cigarettes: to get children addicted (1). They
will not give discounts to these students once they grow up and graduate.

Free software permits students to learn how software works. When students
reach their teens, some of them want to learn everything there is to know
about their computer system and its software. That is the age when people
who will be good programmers should learn it. To learn to write software
well, students need to read a lot of code and write a lot of code. They need
to read and understand real programs that people really use. They will be
intensely curious to read the source code of the programs that they use
every day.

Proprietary software rejects their thirst for knowledge: it says, "The
knowledge you want is a secret--learning is forbidden!" Free software
encourages everyone to learn. The free software community rejects the
"priesthood of technology", which keeps the general public in ignorance of
how technology works; we encourage students of any age and situation to read
the source code and learn as much as they want to know. Schools that use
free software will enable gifted programming students to advance.

The next reason for using free software in schools is on an even deeper
level. We expect schools to teach students basic facts, and useful skills,
but that is not their whole job. The most fundamental mission of schools is
to teach people to be good citizens and good neighbors--to cooperate with
others who need their help. In the area of computers, this means teaching
them to share software. Elementary schools, above all, should tell their
pupils, "If you bring software to school, you must share it with the other
children." Of course, the school must practice what it preaches: all the
software installed by the school should be available for students to copy,
take home, and redistribute further.

Teaching the students to use free software, and to participate in the free
software community, is a hands-on civics lesson. It also teaches students
the role model of public service rather than that of tycoons. All levels of
school should use free software.

On 9/22/06, Githin Alapatt <githin@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:

Githin F Alapatt Student Coordinator FLOSS Cell C.E.C

The Principal

22 September 2006

Respected Sir,
Sub: Permission to conduct GNU/Linux training at schools.

The FLOSS cell is interested in conducting a one-day students and
staff training program on GNU/Linux. We met the Principals of two
Government Schools at the Althara Junction, Chengannur and they are
very enthusiastic about it. They have agreed to conduct the program on
28th September 2006. They have GNU/Linux in their syllabus and are not
in a situation to install GNU/Linux OS by themselves.

The Kerala Government is trying all they can to popularize GNU/Linux.
They even celebrated the Software Freedom Day 2006. So, as a part of
the Software Freedom Day celebrations at Chengannur, the FLOSS cell
would like to take 15-20 students to the schools and conduct a one day
training session. Further, we would help them in future if any need
arises. We would also be requiring two LCD projectors for the event.

So considering this as a community service program, I humbly request
you to grant us permission for the same.

Yours Obediently

Githin F Alapatt Student Coordinator FLOSS Cell _______________________________________ FLOSS Cell Mailing List College of Engineering Chengannur floss-cec@xxxxxxxxxxxxx http://www.freelists.org/list/floss-cec


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