Recently on Slashdot, I read an interesting post. Our friends in Surat, Gujarat, were intalling M$ products for their customers free of cost. So, M$ sent a “customer” and caught the vendor. Wow. What one of the retaliers says is interesting:
“Since we are are not charging anything extra for installing the software, it means that we are actually not trading in pirated software. For us this is just a sewa (selfless act) that we are offering to our customers. Besides, the pricing of their operating systems is way too high for the Indian markets.”
In my various talks involving Linux advocacy, I started out saying Linux was a free alternative to Windows and other related productivity tools. The audience never connected well with this idea. Well, the reason was simple. No one bought a copy of Windows or M$ Office – ever. So, whats the point in replacing software that is running well with Linux and related applications? So when you talk about the “free” as in beer, be very careful. Most guys don’t even know that they are supposed to pay for the M$ software they are using. Go into any independent PC assembler’s office here in Chennai and you will see that software is installed free of cost for any customer who wants to buy an assembled PC. It is all done in the open. Nothing’s hidden.
In the advocacy talks, I moved to free as in freedom and this seem to help a lot. First, is to make the people realize how they can get trapped and then to make them understand the merits of FOSS in the area. Again, if you are talking to business people, they are interested in the traps and the snares. But, if you are speaking to students who are busy learning C with Turbo C, VB and VC++, then this trap business won’t make sense to them. They have never been in a “trap” and so they can’t realize the horror of one. Talk to them about code. Ask them if they have seen the code for a real operating system. This will interest them – take it forward from there.