Give me Liberty or Give me Death

This is my first blog – and understandably I have butterflies on my fingers.

Common Sense tells me that the title is cliched. If that is the case, I offer my regrets. If it sounds plagiarised (and if that can be applied to a phrase) – my apologies…But I guess I have the freedom to modify, redistribute, transmogrify the phrase above, even as I lift it directly from Patrick Henry’s Famous speech and no one would/should slap a piracy/plagiarism case upon me for using the phrase above…..

Common Sense, also tells me that a restriction on the freedom to use great quotes/speeches/texts/research journals and build upon them would surely have ensured that we were at least a couple of centuries behind what we are today, maybe more. Therefore, the more information spreads, the more knowledge we share, the more we progress. A case in point is Project Gutenberg (Wikipedia article) from where I get to read some of the most exciting stuff ever penned, including the speech referred to by today’s title – a volunteer effort “to break down the bars of ignorance and illiteracy”.

Common Sense also tells me that software should also be thus spread. But alas, the bars of illiteracy (The Right to Education in India) are at least easier to break than the bars of ignorance. I see a lot of people becoming quite aware of what they consume or use – right from the choice of Phones, PDAs, Laptops to intricate details of cars, homes and even toys that children play with. This comes with increased literacy.

Most of us literates are quite content looking at the “hard” specs – the amount of memory, CPU badwidth, Engine horsepower, safe edges and material in toys etc. …

But sadly, we at times ignore the real “soft” specsĀ  – is the software good enough to exploit the hardware, does the car really exploit the engine’s potential, is a toy really stoking the fire of learning in the child etc. Ignorance, may be….

We simply assume that the software that drives the hardware is ideal and concentrate on the hardware specs, and that is the beginning of treating software as some kind of a “black-box”. We rarely look under the hood. We rarely, if ever question the effectiveness of the software. We are mentally tuned to buy boxes/appliances and we somehow treat software as an appliance too. And this is where we let down our guard, our vigil, which again reminds me of another American Revolutionary, Thomas Jefferson who said “The Price of Freedom is eternal vigil”.

We buy propreitary software at a huge price – we give away our freedom since we have not been vigilant. I feel the same with my phone (I am stuck with a CDMA vendor for my phone handsets – and with a proprietory OS for my smart phone), my IP-TV andĀ  lots of software on various appliances.

But thankfully, I can use Open Source Software for my PC – I have the freedom – I have the liberty, and I am quite happy to pay for it. In our entire office, all the PCs run open source software, apart from our Financial Accounting Software. It is frustrating not to be running fully on Open Source, but it gives us an opportunity to work towards it…. and I am looking forward to the day when we will become 100% open source.

Sadly, most organisations and CIOs/CTOs continue to depend on Proprietary Software for powering their organisations. But they are all honorable men (and I can comfortably say that they remind me of Brutus in Shakespeare’s epic – Julius Caesar – who ignorantly and innocently helped assassinate Caesar in the false hope that he was doing the right thing). Over the years, I have met innumerable CIOs who worry about support, question the reliability of open source software, but are not too questioning of packaged proprietary software.

I guess, nobody ever got fired for procuring “Proprietary Software” and this is where the catch lies. Fear of Failure is more catastrophic than Failure itself and this is what drives the purchase decision of the CIO/CEO. This fear prevents them from taking the plunge into Open Source to secure their organisation’s IT infrastructure foundation.

Do not mistake me – I am not saying that Open Source is the panacea for all IT requirements for an organisation, that day is yet to come and there are wonderful proprietary solutions available in the market. I am not saying that Proprietary software is evil and that Open Source is all wonderful. It is similar to the fact that not all totalitarian/dictatorship regimes are evil and not all democracies virtuos.

Open Source is for those who value their freedom, it is for those who care enough to look under the hood and “own” their investment. It is for the progressive minded who care to evaluate available options rather than ignorantly dismiss Open Source on “hearsay” and common “myths”.

It is for those who value liberty over anything else – those who believe that liberty is the driver for true growth and those who are ready to learn from history – from Henry, Jefferson and closer home from Gandhi, Nehru, Subhash and countless others. It is for those true leaders – the CIOs and CEOs – who want to emulate the success of free nations to create great free corporations.

I only hope that the butterflies on my fingers have taken the liberty to fly away ……

6 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Great ideas.We never had Windows servers last 12 years!Who would buy that-it will get virused in 2 weeks.

  2. Swapnil Bhartiya says:

    Nice thoughts. Hope more and more people will understand this.

    Swapnil

  3. Narayan says:

    Great ideas.We never had Windows servers last 12 years!Who would buy that-it will get virused in 2 weeks.

  4. Rajveer Singh says:

    Fantastic Article….!!!

    Hats off :-)

  5. Sahil Garg says:

    Ultimate one ………..!!!!!!!!

  6. Yaman Kaushik says:

    Great Thought Sir…

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