Saturday, January 22, 2011

Units to UPM: What’s in FOSS for us?

Another work in progress.

I am supposed to have a long introduction for this one, but I decided to remove the management perspective and get right into the opportunities FOSS offers to educational institutions.
  1. Economy
  2. Security
  3. Ethical behavior (Intellectual property)
  4. Innovation
  5. Community
Economy is the most common reason for adopting open source software. While not all open source software are free, most of them are. And when we get FOSS, we do not just get the application for free. Most of the time, we also get updates to it for free.

In our University when we do not have a lot of funds for IT, FOSS really is a sensible option.

Security is an issue in information management that has finally (and thankfully) getting its breakthrough. Not a lot of people here at UP Manila care about security (Yes, the security guards are included in this issue, but not only them.) when it comes to computing, but that relaxed attitude poses great risk to administrators and other IT users.

Security is not only about hacking or cracking, or about protecting your computer from theft. Security includes protection of your data from observation, inappropriate copying or corruption. Among these three, we usually neglect the third. We have to remember that data lost is almost the same (or even worse than) data copied.

Open source software, particularly community-driven software, have better security processes than those created by few programmers. This is because the source code (the original, human-readable set of instructions and rules) is viewed by many contributors.

Ethical behavior refers to the use of legal software (in appropriate use, of course). Software piracy and buying pirated software are unethical behavior. No matter what you say your purpose is, the end does not justify the mean of getting pirated software. Let us not compromise the University’s credibility by using pirated software.

Getting free and open source software releases you from this ethical dilemma. Further, you relieve yourself of worries of pirated software which may either be broken or have malicious software embedded into it.

Innovation refers to the creative juices the FOSS community offers for your real needs. Because FOSS software development is driven by its community of users, FOSS has the tendency to better address the need of its immediate community.

Take note of the term ‘immediate.’ This is the operative word here. In today’s global context, community is always the whole World Wide Web. FOSS, in order to be really responsive, has to cater to particular communities.

And in UP Manila, there is such an opportunity. If you need a particular type of application, the IMS and the CAS IT Office are there to listen to what you need and see what they can help with to satisfy your IT needs.

Community refers to the unique community-driven and community-based approach among most FOSS. Take a look at all Linux OS distributions, the OpenOffice.Org, FreeMind and other popular FOSS applications. What drives them? It’s not simply being free, but in being community-based.

As mentioned in Innovation, FOSS is community-driven. This results not only to innovation but also in instilling a spirit of unity among the users. People get to share what they know about certain applications, how to do certain things in more efficient and more effective ways, and share issues that may or may not be related to their disciplines or personal lives. Proprietary software does not do that (Notice they almost always use the ‘i’ or ‘my’?).

Need help? You can either read the manual, or ask the community! There is a forum for almost all open source software out there, listening to requests for help and feedback to improve the software.

FOSS follows closely the motto of UP (Honor and Excellence) as well as the functions of UP faculty (Teaching, Research, Extension). Adopting FOSS in our software usage is analogous to freeing ourselves from the chains of economic and intellectual bonds set by proprietary software.

As for me, I just love to learn something new and use what I learned to use in helping my college do what it needs to do without fear of cost or usage limitations.

Typed in OpenOffice.Org 3.2.0 in Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx.Units to UPM: What’s in FOSS for us?

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