‘Free’ comes at a cost

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I READ with great interest the article (Open up and be free, StarMag April 15) by Dzof Azmi. It was a nice change to see that an important topic often discussed by “techies” is finally explained in layman’s terms rather than technical jargon.

While I applaud the writer’s attempt to explain Open Source Software (OSS), I think readers should be made aware that there is a lot more to this issue.

Firstly, there is still a lot of confusion over the term OSS. It is called “Open Source” not because it is free but because the user can look at the source code and is free to make any changes he likes and distribute it under certain terms.

Note that not everybody can make these changes since you’d need to understand the coding first.

Only GNU Free software is free software. (GNU is a recursive acronym for “GNU’s Not Unix”; it is pronounced guh-noo, approximately like canoe. For more information, visit www.gnu.org.

Open Source has a cost. The cost is setting up the software (if you have the skills) and you may have to engage the services of others to run it. This involves spending time and money.

I believe Malaysians don’t use open source software because of the lack of knowledge and skills in configuring the computer.

Windows hides its implementation under the hood, so it’s easy to use. Mac does the same thing but costs a lot more. Linux and FreeBSD expose their guts to the user, which makes the software scarier to the uninitiated.

Only technically proficient users can bear using Linux or FreeBSD on a daily basis.

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