free computer course by spoken tutorial of IIT Bombay and IIIM in west bengal.
Debian 7.0 “Wheezy”
Neil McGovern, on behalf of the Debian Release Team, announced the target date of the weekend of 4th/5th May for the release of Debian 7.0 “Wheezy”.
Now it’s time to organize some Wheezy release parties to celebrate the event and show all your Debian love!
FSF India urges AICTE to withdraw the circular recommending engineering colleges to use Microsoft Office 365.
This has reference to a recent news report regarding a circular from AICTE that instructs engineering colleges to use Microsoft Office 365 in their college computers. We believe that every piece of proprietary software denies freedom to the users and is bad for society. It keeps people divided and helpless by keeping the source code secret and making the piece of software a black box that one can only use as specified by its creators. In practice, this is like a car that is sold with its bonnet locked and the key retained by the manufacturer so that only they can open it and do any repairs.
This is especially bad in the case of the education sector because students need to see the insides of pieces of software to learn and develop their skills. Moreover, the formats in which proprietary applications save files created using them are also secret, forcing anyone who desires to open the files to use the same piece of software. In this sense the circular mentioned above is very unfortunate.
Further, with this circular, AICTE is behaving as a marketing representative of Microsoft Corporation. We believe that this goes against the very grain of the principle of a fair and level playing ground for all players in the field.
Moreover, the Government of India, in its latest education policy has favoured free and open source software and sharing of knowledge among the teaching and learning community. We would like to point out that the present circular goes directly against the spirit of the policy.
Finally, we believe that when good and popular software that is widely used and powerful and more secure is available with freedom and also free of cost, spending so much of public money to purchase the software of a private company that restricts the freedom of the user and keeps everything in secret formats is a very serious and needless waste of public funds that can certainly be much better used, especially in a poor country like India.
We, therefore, urge AICTE to withdraw the specified circular if it has really been sent to colleges and allow the colleges to use software that they find most convenient and best for the students and staff.
We also urge the engineering colleges to opt out of this arrangement in the interest of the students and teachers and the colleges in general.
Why the AICTE’s decision to partner with Microsoft is unimaginative
The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) has become Microsoft’s biggest customer for cloud services. By June 30, students and teachers at 11,500 technical institutions will be locked down to Microsoft’s online productivity applications and storage. Cloud services reduce the cost of computing and increase reliability, so this is a good route to go. But a better fork in the same road could have been taken. What would it have cost to develop a free and open source cloud? Or to catch the interest of free and open source software providers who already offer such services to large populations? Even if big brands are in favour, Microsoft has competition which may have been more open.
Comparisons between proprietary and free and open systems usually focus on the cost advantage — free means free to use. It is a compelling argument for poorer countries that face the challenge of educating, skilling and connecting large populations very rapidly. But the real, long-term advantages lie in the alternative meanings of free — free to play with, free to change, free to reprogramme, free to apply to unintended purposes. And most importantly, free to learn from and free to share. When the users of a system have technical interests, the potential gains from these flavours of freedom are immense. Instead of being passive users of a locked system, they would be encouraged to be curious, to tinker with the very tools they use and innovate ways to adapt them to their needs — or to future needs. The cloud itself could be adapted. And users would have access to at least 40,000 software packages to use, study or get involved in developing.
In the open source ecosystem, it’s redundant to ask who the stakeholders and beneficiaries are. Over the long term, everyone owns the ecosystem and benefits from it. Besides, in calculating the benefit to education, a computation of savings should be accompanied by a projection of profits accruing to communities, the nation, the knowledge economy. And to students, who could start developing software professionally even before joining the workforce. In terms of opportunity cost, the AICTE’s decision to partner with Microsoft is prudent but unimaginative.