Wednesday, July 06, 2005

European Parliament Signals Victory for Open Source Aficionados

Onyango Oloo Savours Break-Through for Global Geeks with A Social Conscience

"A nightmare is over. Parliament put an end to the lies of the EU Commission and so many others"

Florian Muller, Founder ginger group source as a common allusion to any open-source software (OSS) where its source code, its related documentation and its content in general acquired such open-source basis. Open-source software has freely available source code, which lets anybody create a new version of the software. Such access to the source code allows anybody to build a package of the software and sell it. Some people have used the term open source in reference to any software that has publicly available source code, but not all publicly available source code meets open source standards. The Open Source Definition (OSD), notably, presents an open-source philosophy, and further defines a boundary on the usage, modification and redistribution of open-source software. Software licenses define specific grants or restrictions on usage, modification and redistribution, and several open-source software licenses have qualified within the boundary of the OSD, like the popular GNU General Public License (GPL). from Wikipedia

You know, I know, we all know that the

riot police in Scotland have been captured on a thousand digital camcorders committing another crime-brutalizing peaceful demonstrators opposed to the G-8 gabfest which began today at Gleneagles.

I suppose I could have launched another digital essay on that subject-but something tells me that there is no looming shortage of opinions on that subject on this very day.

That is why I turn to an obscure news item which is a huge victory for geeks, especially those geeks who are not in love with Microsoft and other big software and technology companies.

There are at least 277 different online sources for the breaking news that I want to focus on today ranging from ZDNET, to Computer Weekly, to Tech World, to VuNet so why I don't go randomly and arbitrarily to the CHINESE News Agency to share with you their coverage on the decision:

BRUSSELS, July 6 (Xinhuanet) -- The European Parliament on Wednesday overwhelmingly rejected a controversial bill dealing with software patents, bringing an end to years of fierce legal bickering.

The parliament in Strasbourg, France voted 648 to 14 to throw out the draft law protecting inventions that combine software and machinery, such as codes that reduce battery consumption on mobile phones.

The assembly also ruled out a compromise with governments of the EU member states, which endorsed the legislation in March.

Patents, unlike copyright, give holders exclusive rights to a technology for a set number of years. Patent holders can charge a license fee for their invention and restrict who can use it. Companies are increasingly seeking this protection for computer-driven inventions, which account for about a fifth of patent applications in Europe.

The legislation has sparked heated debates on whether software could and should be patented or whether it should be kept under the protection of existing copyright systems.

Large technology companies backed the proposed law in order to gain more legal protection for their software, even when it is used by others.

Those opposing the bill included smaller software and technology firms, who felt they would be constrained by the stricter regulation.

Many EU lawmakers called the new patent system a legal monster, preferring to keep software patents as they are now.

The European Commission, EU's executive arm, said after the parliament's rejection that it has no intention of submitting a new software patent proposal.

"Patents will continue to be issued by national patent offices and the European patent office under existing law," Oliver Drewes, a spokesman for EU Internal Market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy, told a news conference.
- Xinhuanet, July 6, 2005

This European Parliament decision is considered a victory for Open Source.

What the heck is that?

Well, let us make sure we are all on the same page when it comes to the basics by clicking on this wikipedia link.

Organizations such as The Free Sofware Foundation are credited with helping to launch the Open Source revolution back in the mid-1980s.

If you visit OpenSource.Org,you will get additional information. Mysql boasts of hosting the largest open source data base in the world; Source Forge is another home you may want to visit, not overlooking Open Source Web Design,or OpenSSL; PostGreSql; NewsForge which calls itself the "online newspaper for Linux and Open Source or DevShed which promises tutorials on Open Source.

And speaking of

Linux, first developed by legendary software guru

Linus Torvalds

over the past few years, it has gained world wide acceptance as a viable alternative to the operating systems developed by Microsoft and other corporate behemoths.

Red Hat is yet another Open Source upstart that is clearly not going away.

Anyone reading this online is probably familiar with the Mozilla browser developed by the Open Source community, which over the past year has earned itself the mantle of preferred browser for cookie-hating, privacy loving cybersurfers.

Did you know that there were FREE online substitutes to expensive propriety software suites like Microsoft Office?

Well if you did not know, perhaps today would be a good day for you to visit Open Office.Org to find out more....

If you are still unconvinced about the pros of using open source software, it is just remotely possible that this thoroughly researched, organized and lucid scholarly paper will change your dithering mind.

So what is a political activist like Onyango Oloo doing yabbering about Open Source?

Well, because I am not the only one who sees Open Source software as a TOOL for social justice. Check out what was said at the World Social Forum on this topic.

This call has been reiterated in Pambazuka News: Weekly Forum for Social Justice in Africa.

Someone called Bryan Pfaffenberger has argued that open source technology holds the key to the ability of colleges and universities to retain their traditions of scientific and scholarly excellence as they adapt to an increasingly computerized world.

Here is another academic plug for Open Source.

A medical doctor called Daniel L. Johnson wrote a paper in 2001 titled "Medical Enterprises and Open Source" that is worth at least a passing glance.

Here is how biologists can use Open Source.

The following is a presentation on why NGOs and Unions should use Open Source.

Here is a link to an article from Uganda which has direct relevance to Kenyans on the subject of Open Source.

If you want, I could tell you who the KENYAN contact for free software and open source is.

Here are his relevant contacts

Mr. Bildad Kagai
The Co-ordinator
Suite B2, Tetu Apartments, State House Avenue
PO Box 20311-00200 Nairobi, Kenya
Tel. 254 2 2728332
Fax. 254 2 2726965


Visit their site for more info.

Now do you see WHY I am excited about the European Parliament 648 to 14 vote to throw out the draft law protecting inventions that combine software and machinery, such as codes that reduce battery consumption on mobile phones?

I sure hope so....

Onyango Oloo

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