Thursday, February 10, 2005

Linux - Free as in Freedom

I read Conrado Banal's column today on the inquirer

for those who will read this later when the inq7 archives have been lost, this are the relevant potions of the column
"IN the ICT business -- a buzzword of this cute administration, together with "call center" and "instant noodles" -- people wonder what happened to some 200 or so costly computers.

Not too long ago, you see, when the Department of Trade and Industry was still under Korina San... er, then-secretary and now senator Mar Roxas, this cute administration distributed computers to public schools.

The money for the computers did not come from our tax money. They were financed by a grant from the Japanese government. In return for what, only they know.

From what I gathered, those computers are still not running. Well, they did not have the software to make them run, that's why.

Usually, if you buy a computer, it comes loaded with the programs. This cute administration thought it could save money by buying only the hardware.

Based on the story in the ICT sector, this cute administration wanted to use the operating system called "Linux."

The software, supposedly, would be "free." This cute administration wouldn't pay for it, not even with a cross-eyed centavo of our tax money.

It turned out that the government had to spend a lot more money to make the computers work using the so-called "free" software. Result? The computers are turning into junk, proving once again, in computers, that there's no such thing as a free launch!

* * *

EVEN in Europe, government outfits that decided to switch to "Linux," thereby dropping "Windows," are rethinking their move.

It's because they found out that they would also spend money by using Linux, one way or another, and it would cost so much more than, say, staying with "Windows."

To make the "free" operating system run other programs, you have to use software that you can only buy from -- where else? -- Linux.

But not only that, partner. Try visiting this website called "Zone H," which I reached at

It's where computer hackers gloat about their exploits in cyberspace. Hackers are those whose idea of fun is getting in your pants ... no, your computers.

According to the Zone H website, 19.2 percent of the attacks were against Windows, while an amazing 60 percent were against Linux.

And -- get this -- even government institutions were not spared. Three Philippine websites were hacked.

One of them -- would you believe -- was the National Computer Center. Another was the Department of Science and Technology.

Another famous, enjoyable, beautiful and award-winning website, which Zone H claimed was hacked, was

Maybe the hackers just wanted to correct the wrong grammar in this column, but I really can't say. "


First, I would like to state that I use linux in my personal computer, I was motivated to use linux because it is free and not only in monetary terms (you can find more about free software here )

I don't know what the DOTC did that made them spend more on their PC's with linux. Although I would like to state that when I installed my linux distribution, Mandrake version 10.1. It not only installed the operating system (linux), it also came with the Open Office suite that replaces Word, Excel and Powerpoint.

According to Amazon, the list price for Microsoft Windows is $199 and the list price for Microsft Office Standrd is $499, even assuming a substantial discount of $ 500 per PC, the DOT would have needed to spend more than P 10,000 per PC, or an additional 2 milliion pesos to offset the savings they got from installing linux.

Here,2000061733,20261576,00.htm is a story about amazon reaping substantial savings whan they switched to linux.

Here is a story about the cost of switching from windows to linux, it states
"Windows-to-Linux migrations are more of a toss-up due to higher retraining and conversion costs, and lower hardware acquisition cost savings."
but it also states that when
"The more fully an enterprise adopts Linux across its infrastructure, the more financial leverage it is likely to get out of up-front investments in the OS. Those investments, which can be considerable, include Linux training and tools, and the costs of migrating from a Unix or Windows environment. And that financial leverage is improving steadily as better management tools, more third-party vendor support, and more skilled Linux system administrators arrive on the market."
so switching from windows to linux for large institutions will entail upfront costs, but will give them more savings in the long run.

And as I stated above, linux is free, you do not need to buy linux, most of the software that you will use is actually in included in the distribution including but not limited to: is a full-featured office suite that includes word processor, spreadsheet
and presentation applications. is available in 23 different languages
and can read & write most types of Microsoft Office documents such as Word, Excel
and PowerPoint files. features the ability to easily export a document
to PDF or Flash.

Scribus is a Desktop Publishing application in the tradition of XPress® and

Karbon14 is a vector drawing application similar to Corel Draw and Adobe Illustrator.

Take your choice of several full-featured web browsers such as Mozilla, Konqueror and

Mozilla-mail, Kmail and Evolution are world-class email clients that support email
encryption for enhanced privacy and security. Mozilla-mail also provides an efficient
anti-spam feature.

Kontact unifies KDE's email, calendaring, address book, notes and other PIM features

GnuCash is a personal finance manager which is compatible with applications such as
Quicken, Microsoft Money and MoneyDance.

And you can download and install many more applications that are also free.

Lastly, in the explanatory notes in the site, you can read the following lines in relation to their data about he number of attacks per OS.
"So far, so good except from one detail: the only exact action after watching these data is that


Why? The reason is simple.

First of all, somebody might argue that the data should be re-evaluated and proportioned to the total amount of worldwide installations.

Second, crackers are choosing OS depending of what is "leet" at that very moment (remember the Solaris Armageddon 18 months ago?)

Availability of 0 days for particular OSs is also contributing to the "mumbo jumbo" curves of the above graph.


In fact, nowadays many of the intrusions are performed at database or application level.

Regardless the OS.

Regardless the web server."

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

On Microsoft Licenses

A week ago (January 25, 2005) ZDnet released a story entitled "Microsoft: Legit Windows or no updates". As the title suggests, Microsoft will start to make it mandatory for people to prove that their copy of windows is legitimate before they allow the user to download updates to the operating system, they will still allow them to download critical updates.

This move by Microsoft thas been critized elsewhere in the sense that not allowing people (even those owning pirated copies), to downlod updates will only increase the number of PC's vulnerable to viruses and hackers and spammers etc.

I leave them to discuss this consequence of the Microsoft decision.

What I want to focus on is the consequence of this decision on the Philippines and our software pirates, which in the near term will be nil to insignificant. As a friend told me when I was discussing this subject with him, Filipinos who own pirated copies of windows does not generally update their software.

But in the long term, as microsoft tightens its grip and makes it impossible to pirate windows, we might see a trend towards the adaption of linux. I am hoping that this will actually happen. In fact I am hoping tht this will start to happen now.

The same day that I read this article on ZDnet, I also read an article from the Asian Wall Street Journal (they do not let you read their archives), a story about how European and other governments are pressuring microsoft to lower its prices on their licenses by threatening to switch to linux. Some governments/local governments have actually switched.

In this day, when we are debating whether to raise taxes to sustain our government, it is criminal that our government officials, whether national or local, are not pursuing this option. Adopting linux as a standard in our government will help reduce government expenses, and we need that today.