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Free and irresistible

The Free Software Movement-Karnataka has a sizeable number of followers in South Canara

Go to the Internet and type free software, you will get pages of downloadable free software.

Have you ever wondered how all these software are available for us to download freely? Free Software Movement, one of the biggest revolutions in the Indian software industry, has made thousands of free software available that run under free operating systems.

An increasing number of people in South Canara and throughout the State bear testimony to the success story of Free Software Movement-Karnataka (FSMK).

S. Karthikeyan, an FSMK volunteer says, “Free Software Movement is all about user's freedom. When one buys a bicycle, he has the freedom to modify the bicycle to suit his requirements and even share it with his friends. This same rule applies with the software.”

Free software movement was envisaged by Richard Stallman in 1983 with the intention to build a technically skilled team by providing complete freedom to every computer user.

Free Software is a category of software, which can be studied, copied, modified and redistributed by the user.

Free software does not mean the price is always zero; people often do pay for copies but since people can redistribute free software to each other, those who are short of money can get it at zero price if they really want to. Karthikeyan adds, “FSMK is fighting against the problem of digital divide.

There are a privileged few who have access to computers and varied software, while others are still craving to join the IT race, unable to get the required software.”

Free Software Movement is active in South Canara from over three years, says Karthikeyan. “We had recently conducted a workshop on free software in Bangalore and are aiming to extend this to Mangalore and nearby areas.

The workshop concentrates on different sections of people who can benefit from the free software. Various sessions in these workshops include Perl Level 1, MySQL-PHP, UNIX Commands and Utilities, Lex &Yacc. GNU/Linux and Networking etc”

Akshay Srinivasan, a Chemical Engineering student who is a supporter of FSMK says, “Free Software Movement is pretty cool. By making the source code of the software freely available FSMK is providing computer users the power to change and customise the software.”

He says, “We have formed ‘Linux users group' in NITK, Surathkal where we have regular meetings, conduct guest lectures and discuss about the ongoing trends in the software industry. We write software, provide online help to new users by educating them about the software and also help them fix software issues.” If software users want to copy or distribute that software, which is not free to use, they have to wait until the copyright term expires and goes into the public domain, as copyright laws chiefly govern the rights in respect of software.

However, Suprita S. Amin who is the Principal of Manipal Institute of Computer Education (MICE), Udupi, has a different opinion. She says, “It should be understood that designing and developing software involves lot of finance and effort. Software development is an industry and is a business like any other; we cannot expect the companies to distribute copies of software free of cost. Conversely if Microsoft is introducing a software for 500 dollars it could be circulated in India at a lower price. If people are really interested they will get the software anyway.”

Pradeep (name changed) 24, a hacker who enjoys modifying software and bringing out new improved versions says with a smile, “I am famous all over the Net now. I get mails from all over India and abroad congratulating my work.”

“Except for few security software, all the other software should be let free to be developed and modified by anyone.

If one has the brain to improve existing software and help the entire community by bringing out a better one, then what's wrong in it?” asks Pradeep.

ARPITA H.

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