I’ll be at FOSDEM in Brussels this week and am looking forward to attending the sessions on Fedora, CentOS, Drupal and Mozilla. The first day keynotes at FOSDEM seem pretty interesting too. Mark Surman of Mozilla will talk about how freedom, openness and participation have become a pervasive part of digital life. BDale Garbee will be speaking on Debian and his observations about the role that Debian plays in the world of free software, and some lessons learned that may help other free software projects.
Also, of interest to me are the OSI sessions at FOSDEM where the OSI plans to meet with the European FOSS community. In its ‘Public Meeting of the Open Source Initiative‘, the OSI plans to discuss its recent activities, future direction and other topics of importance to the open source community.
At another session, ‘OSI: Recent Activities and Future Directions‘, the OSI’s Board of Directors will cover recent activities of the organization as well as present a current snapshot of the adoption of open source throughout the world.
Pune’s popular FOSS conference GNUnify has just announced its dates for 2009 – February 13-14. The conference has been organized annually by the Pune FOSS community, Linux User Group (PLUG) and Symbiosis’ Institute for Computer Studies and Research (SICSR) since 2003 and is a favorite meeting place for India’s FOSS community.
The seventh GNUnify plans to bring together another round of excellent technology talks, workshops, BOFs and install-fests. The call for participation is now open – so send in your proposal for an in-depth talk, a serious workshop or a BOF on the latest open source technologies to Harshad Gune or Sudhanwa Jogalekar at GNUnify.
Transparency is key in enabling people to participate in the creation of wealth and well-being in society. In the past decade, free and open source software (FOSS) has become one of the major catalysts in increasing transparency by lowering the barrier to access the best software technologies. Software Freedom Day (SFD) celebrates this important role of FOSS in making this change happen globally.
Educate, distribute, install and promote the use of free and open source software on Software Freedom Day this year in your community – in your neighborhood, in your school and at work.
Share your knowledge and participate in the nearest SFD celebration. Visit the Software Freedom Day website to find out where you can participate in your local area.
Show your support for FOSS and for software freedom.
As the Web becomes an integral part of our lives and culture, web applications are being used as online services at an unprecedented scale. Email, calendaring, social bookmarks, social news, photo sharing, video sharing, social networking, mapping are all applications that we use every day. Free and open source software is being used to build many of these new web services. But we find that most of these online applications are closed source and have turned waters murky in terms of ownership (especially when open source licensed software is used). Separation of usage and distribution of software has changed the relationships between software and users. Who owns what part of the software, who controls what part, what rights do users have and how do they protect them are just some of the questions that one has to deal with.
It’s great to see a new initiative “Autonomo.us” launched by a group of hackers and activists who are concerned about the effects by network services on user freedom. Some of contributors in this effort include Benjamin Mako Hill (MIT/FSF), Bradley Kuhn (SFLC and Software Freedom Conservancy), James Vasile (SFLC) and Luis Villa (GNOME Foundation, OSI Legal Advisory Board). The group is supported by the FSF and intends to serve as a forum to examine issues raised by network services and establish an “informed” position on software freedom and network services.
Mozilla’s 10th birthday party in SF on March 31st felt like a Netscape reunion. Hundreds of geeks and cat-herders, many with Netscape jackets, shirts, and nostalgia, gathered together to celebrate Mozilla’s phenomenal success. Mitchell Baker, Brendan Eich and the Mozilla community were all there to party, to enjoy the cake and to be merry. As the galactic chocolate birthday cake was being cut, Mitchell predicted that many opportunities and challenges lay ahead in the next 10 years and that the greatest achievements for Mozilla are yet to come.
Mozilla has millions of reasons to celebrate. After 500 million downloads, Firefox stands tall as the world’s best free and open source web browser. After 500 million downloads, Firefox has single-handedly turned the tables on IE and has prevented Microsoft from closing the Web. Mozilla is Netscape done right.
Life would be almost unimaginable without Firefox.
In January 2006, India’s Patent Office rejected a patent application for Gleevec, a leukemia cancer drug by Swiss pharmaceutical Novartis. Now, in August 2007, the Chennai High Court has rejected Novartis’ appeal to overturn this rejection.
Novartis claims that India’s ruling will stunt R&D and innovation in pharmaceuticals and violates WTO intellectual property agreements. But the Indian government sees this decision as helping ensure that affordable medicines continue to be available for her people and those of other developing countries. Such medicines are essential to combat killer diseases like AIDS and cancer. Indian companies manufacture generic Gleevec (known as Glivec in India) for one-tenth the price offered by Novartis.
Why does this matter?
India’s ruling will deter international pharma giants from trying to extend their monopolies by patenting newer versions of existing medicines. This ruling allows India to continue manufacturing inexpensive generic drugs. For example, 85% of AIDS generics to Africa are provided by India’s pharmaceuticals. That’s significant.
This precedent also establishes a model for rejecting software patents in India. The arguments that favor availability of generic medicines equally apply to free and open source software (FOSS). India cannot afford the monopolies and high prices brought about by software patents. FOSS is the only practical way developing nations can afford long-term, large-scale IT automation. Without automation, India and others cannot scale to provide the infrastructure and banking, education and health care needed to ensure prosperity for billions of people across the globe.